Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the constitutional challenge to Proposition 8. I sat down to write a blog post about my thoughts on gay marriage and kept writing and writing and writing. You can read the results here.
Like a lot of Latter-day Saints, I have spent a fair amount of time during the last two decades thinking about gay marriage. For better or for worse, it has been one of the main conundrums of Mormon intellectual discussions for my entire adult life. This essay is an attempt to distill my thinking and conclusions. (At least thus far.)
Ultimately, I think that gay marriage is a good idea. I think that recognizing gay marriage has the potential to create stronger gay families and a better environment to grow up in for the children of homosexuals. It also carries within itself the possibility for an ethic of gay chastity, which ultimately strikes me as superior to either gay celibacy or gay promiscuity. I understand that in its fullest religious sense, gay chastity for Latter-day Saints (as opposed to gay celibacy) requires revelation to those with greater religious authority than I, and I am comfortable sustaining that authority. Nevertheless, in my all-things-considered independent judgment, gay chastity is a good idea.
That said, much of the public discussion around gay marriage strikes me as deeply troubling. Gay marriage has emerged as a civil rights issue, for many as the central civil rights issue of this generation. Framing the issue in this way, however, strikes me as mistaken and potentially destructive. The language of civil rights focuses our attention on the ideas of equality, liberty, and legal rights. None of these strike me as very productive or complete ways of thinking about marriage. Marriage is about a hierarchy of family statuses, in which a certain form — marriage — is enshrined as perferable to others. Likewise, marriage is in an important sense about limiting freedom, both by raising the costs of exit and by providing a locus for creating and enforcing social norms that try to constrain behavior. My worry is that entrenching ideas of equality, liberty, and legal rights in our public understanding of marriage will tend to erode it’s social and cultural potency at the margins.
I suspect that in the last two paragraphs I have managed to say something that will strike everyone who has thought about this issue as wrongheaded. Fair enough. Take a look at the essay, however, which does try to provide a more nuanced and complete version of my thinking. A couple of final caveats on the essay. It’s not meant as a work of scholarship or legal advocacy. Hence the absence of footnotes and other scholarly apparatus. It is also not meant as a manifesto or as my own Luther-before-the-Diet-of-Worms moment, two genres of internet writing of which I am not a fan. This is just my attempt to get straight on my own thinking. I pass it along for what it is worth:
I think I feel exactly the same as you about this. I don’t see anything wrongheaded here at all. But I suspect there are not many people who think like we do.
The forces against gay marriage have no credibility on this issue. They are the same institutions, and often the very same people, who have treated gays with intolerance and lack of charity, insisted gay desires were an abomination, insisted they could change their orientation, fought against civil unions, and so on. Opposing gay marriage just seems to gays and their supporters as more of the same. So people choose up sides, and nuance goes out the window.
I haven’t read the essay yet and I’m not sure I’ll have time to make it through the 14 pages. I think one of the biggest things that people fail to consider is the effect that change at the margins can have, as well as how rapidly that effect can happen.
I find most people frame their thinking and argument using the “average” person or themselves and think, well this will not affect on me or the average person so there couldn’t possibly be any side effects.
So I’m glad you addressed that.
Completely removing government from marriage seems safest to me at this point. Ideally government would promote marriages ordained by God, but that clearly is changing and so freedom is the better path.
I suspect that in the last two paragraphs I have managed to say something that will strike everyone who has thought about this issue as wrongheaded.
Perhaps, Nate, or maybe that’s just a pre-emptive persecution complex raising its heard. In any case, as you know, I think there are a fair number of claims in this essay of yours which are wrong-headed, but your concern about “judicialization” of marriage (whether same-sex or otherwise) are ones that I share as well. (See here and here.) As we’ve talked about this over the years, it’s become clear that my egalitarian preferences are stronger than yours, and hence I don’t share these worries to perhaps the same degree which you do–but nonetheless, the concerns are there. And I actually suspect that this dynamic which encapsulates both our positions probably describes most of America as well, though most Americans lack the philosophical language to express it: namely, they can generally recognize that marriage is as a complex institution with a long tradition, but they can comprehend the call of equality much more clearly, and hence that sensibility defeats the former one. We’re both caught in a general American wave here (paging Tocqueville!), and while we both–along with hundreds of other intellectuals–have our own particular ways of justifying and parcelling out the various potential harms and benefits which we think may follow from the legalization of same-sex marriage, neither of us are, ultimately, actually out there, Hamlet-like, fighting the wave. Because, in the end, we kind of agree with it. The last hold-outs against same marriage will be those who really, genuinely, think there are truths sufficiently high as to defeat a baseline demand for equality….and I think that describes a vanishingly small number of Americans, including American Mormons.
Thank you Nate. I’m curious as to why you think gay marriage is not a civil rights issue when so many legal rights are tied to marriage. For instance, the DOMA appeal before SCOTUS concerns tax consequences of marriage. I agree that marriage is much more than a rights issue, but because so many legal rights are tied to the institution (I’ve heard 1000+), isn’t it factually incorrect to say marriage is not at all a civil rights issue? Similarly, what are your thoughts on Loving v. Virginia? Was that a civil rights case or just a “marriage” case? I don’t see either Loving or the present movements directed at eroding marriage. Rather, the common theme is expanding the institution to allow people to marry whoever they love.
“The last hold-outs against same marriage will be those who really, genuinely, think there are truths sufficiently high as to defeat a baseline demand for equality….and I think that describes a vanishingly small number of Americans, including American Mormons.”
Perhaps, but I don’t find the equality argument especially compelling. If there weren’t already gay families and children being raised by gays, I would not find the argument that homosexuals should be allowed to marry as a mark of equality very compelling. It seems to me, however, that given the reality of gay families we are better off nudging them toward something that looks a lot more like traditional marriage, especially given the fact that we have good moral and political reasons for not trying to suppress gay families.
For what it is worth, most concerns about “judicialization” grow out of arguments from democracy and the limited democratic legitimacy of courts. My main concern is that constitutional adjudication encourages us to conceptualize things in terms of “basic” rights that ought to trump other concerns. I actually like the kind of provisional, incremental, ad hoc, and not entirely consistent judicial law making that one sees in the common law.
I freely admit to the persecution complex, it comes from being a Mormon and being a conservative/libertarian law professor. Both tribes sustain their identities in part through the shared experience and shared mythos of persecution. Also, the same-sex marriage debates tend to make people particularly nasty…
Dave K (and others with like questions): Read the essay.
A very thought-provoking and refreshingly lucid essay, Nate. I think I’ll return back here with a few questions, but your points about the implications of a rhetoric of equality and freedom for an institution that relies on–and stems from– obligation, limitations, and discrimination (marriage) are very compelling. Reminds me of some arguments David Brooks made yesterday in his NYT op ed.
I’ve read the essay. I don’t agree with all of it, but you do make many good points. Personally I see the Supreme Court upholding Proposition 8, but I agree with your assessment that the way the Church pushed it (and Proposition 22 a little over a decade ago) made it a lightning rod for criticism both in and out of the Church.
I have many distant relatives who live in California, most of whom I have never met. I wonder if they are now less likely to let the missionaries in the door or respond to a media campaign now. I did have a second cousin once removed who did let the missionaries in back in the 1970s. He and his family joined and have remained active in the Church and of course moved to Utah in the 1990s. (Because he and my father have no other relatives who are members, his family is much closer to ours than it would be otherwise.)
I don’t think the question of gay marriage is complex. The purpose of marriage is to create families. The highest use of and need for family is to have and raise children BUT that is not the only purpose for family. Heterosexual people who are incapable of having children also marry and no one opposes. So this is clearly about exclusion. What justifies this exclusion? A few Bible verses that no one knows the true meaning of? Fear? Prejudice? Hate? Disgust? What justifies this exclusion?
“The forces against gay marriage have no credibility on this issue. ”
So the First Presidency has no credibility on this issue? Strange… I only use them as a trump card, because you don’t know me and are seemingly content to deny me credibility. Since you’re assessing credibility based on ethos it makes sense to appeal to a higher degree of character here.
My response to removing marriage from government purview. That diminishes marriage even more so. It’s a false approach that akin to Solomon offering to split the baby. The argument is that marriage is important and serves a valuable social function. Governments, which consist of “we the people” should be able to determine what kind of valuable social functions their government recognizes.
I agree that enshrining this issue in the concept of inalienable rights is the wrong approach that needless polarizes the issue and forces one side to hate another. Increasingly it’s progressive hating the traditionalist, more so than the other way around. This is the case because it’s always been true that 20% of Christians are just hard-nosed bigots, but now the rhetoric on the progressive side has reached a critical mass equal in intensity of that minority Christian group.
But that’s a side track issue, I don’t think we need to win an argument based on how one side or the other is “more” in poor taste.
The issue is that marriage has always been about family and marriage has always implied eventual mother or father. Now, there are noted exceptions to this rule. Exceptions should not throw out rules. Some people get married and can’t have kids or won’t have kids.
In those cases, what needs to be said is at the very least those marriages respect the pattern of a traditional marriage and family. A husband and wife, prospective mother or father. The pattern is preserved.
It should be clear that two gay people, three gay people, 4 heterosexual people, etc. can seek love where they like, can engage in relationships they like, etc. etc.
It should be a fair matter of debate if we will open the concept of marriage to include all the above.
Just because *some* people view and practice marriage as nothing more than a social contract between people who love each other does not mean everyone should view it that way.
It appears if SSM is to be allowed, it will be allowed on the grounds that the government isn’t allowed to recognize any kind of relationship without recognizing another. The Supreme Court does not seem to be interested in the so-called definition of marriage, but rather in simply what a government makes available to a gay person should also be available to a straight person.
It some what dodges the issue and allows a redefinition or marriage without even considering the definition of marriage.
Of course, what obfuscates this issue is it would necessarily allow polygamy, etc. The only reason they will feign otherwise is by suggesting social science privileges SSM over polygamy and other forms of relationships. And once again we’ll see science being used as a hammer to pound a square issue into a circular society.
“The forces against gay marriage have no credibility on this issue. ”
So the First Presidency has no credibility on this issue?
Actually the church has pulled out of this fight!
The single biggest fundraising change between 2008 and 2012 was the disappearance from the political arena of the mightiest foe of gay marriage – the Mormon Church…The $20 million difference between the two campaigns last year is close to several estimates of what the Mormon Church and its supporters gave to California’s Prop 8 in 2008.
I don’t think an official statement reiterating the original position is puling out of the fight. Deciding not to waste money is a separate issue.
Thanks for a very thoughtful, well-considered essay. I don’t have any comments on it, but did want to thank you for your considerable donation of time and thought to this discussion.
Perhaps I should have said the church has tacitly conceded defeat as evidenced by no longer funding the fight.
Really good essay, Nate. I particularly liked the distinction you draw between gay marriage and the arguments about gay marriage. It’s simple conceptually, but it’s easy to conflate the two, and by separating them, I am better able to make sense of my own conflicting intuitions on this subject.
Nate, I’m curious if you’ve read Girgis’ book (or at least his essay), and I wonder what you thought of it (aside from its natural law associations which I assume you abhor).
Thank you for the very insightful essay, Nate. It articulated many thoughts that have been nebulously floating around my head, and helped me understand more clearly my unease with the Facebook equality profile picture phenomenon. It also does a far better job of explaining in what way gay marriage might “threaten” marriage as an institution than anything else I’ve read. It is not gay marriage, it is the popular arguments and the unintended consequences of the worldview those arguments promote.
I enjoyed the essay. There were several points with which I particularly resonated. First, that gay marriage ought to be a conservative position, as affording a retrenchment of rampant sexuality. Second, in the Mormon context, at least, I very much like your idea of gay chastity to be followed by gay marriage, as opposed to the current ideal of life-long celibacy, which in my view is completely untenable. And third, I agree that the Church’s involvement in Prop. 8 was almost completely destructive, in a way that was not necessary.
I don’t share your other worries. That notwishtanding,I did very much enjoy the piece. Thanks.
“I don’t think that the biological sterility of same-sex couples is a good reason for refusing to provide legal recognition for gay marriage…I am not convinced that large scale social experiments in radically new models of parenting are a good idea. … I think we should do less experimenting on our children. This strikes me as one of the most powerful arguments for gay marriage.”
Nate, I don’t follow you here. If gay marriage becomes enshrined as a conservative move back to a rich, socially-enforced notion of marriage as a context for stable child-rearing, then more married gay couples will raise children. In order to do so, however, they will have to engage in the massive social experiment in assisted reproduction which you discourage. (Straight couples of course participate in this experiment, as well.) While there will probably always be a fairly low cap on male-male marriages and on infertility-challenged straight couples, it’s plausible to me that female-female child-rearing marriages could become very common indeed, and thus assisted reproduction via sperm donorship or adoption would soar.
I haven’t yet read the essay but I’m interested in what Nate thinks about Lawrence Vs. Texas. If one thinks conservatism is mainly about keeping government from constricting individual liberty then Lawrence is a very conservative position protecting private sexual conduct.
If one think conservatism means letting the majority make the laws its want with regard to sodomy and marriage, then Lawrence was not a conservative position.
Since I am very much in the first camp, I would prefer a ruling that denied the ability of the state to determine a person’s gender. That is a person should have the liberty to be a man today, a woman tomorrow and neither next week. It is no one else’s business what gender I want to adopt.
There are enough special cases of biologically mixed gender, cross gender, changed gender, etc. people that lead me to think gender identification should be a matter of individual liberty.
Rosalynde: That’s a fair point, I suppose. Two points in response. First, there are already large numbers of children with gay parents. How do we want to structure their lives? This is a more accurate way of framing the question, in my opinion, than asking “Do we want to have gay parenthood.” Gay parenthood has already happened and I don’t think that we can or should suppress it. Second, while I think that gay marriage might slightly increase the number of children raised by gay parents, I actually don’t think that the increase would be all that dramatic. This is because I think that there is a relatively hard biological cap on the number of homosexual couples, and that number is very small. The political saliency of gay marriage tends to cause people to massively overstate the demographic saliency of homosexuality. Also, I think that gay parenthood will scew toward the top of the socio-economic spectrum, which means that from a social point of view I think that the harms of not raising a child with a father and a mother will be strongly mitigated by money.
I don’t find the equality argument especially compelling. If there weren’t already gay families and children being raised by gays, I would not find the argument that homosexuals should be allowed to marry as a mark of equality very compelling. It seems to me, however, that given the reality of gay families we are better off nudging them toward something that looks a lot more like traditional marriage, especially given the fact that we have good moral and political reasons for not trying to suppress gay families.
Which is itself an argument motivated, at least to a small degree, by the concerns of equality. There isn’t an acceptable analogy here, for example, between responding to the needs of gay people and their families and children on the one hand, and responding to the needs of wild mustangs and their herds and colts on the other–because, obviously, nobody (nobody who isn’t an Equus-style psychopath, anyway) sees any moral, psychological, political, or theological equivalence between humans and horses. But amongst humans, we do (increasingly large numbers of us, anyway) are acknowledging the biological equivalence between heterosexuals and homosexuals, and hence issues of equal treatment (what the kids need, what the families deserve, etc.) unavoidably arise. I’d like to think that my mind-change about same-sex marriage isn’t primarily about sexual equivalence, and I hope it isn’t–but as you’ve pointed out to me before, this issue brings out the egalitarianism in all of us. Even your very Burkean argument is shaped by it as well.
My main concern is that constitutional adjudication encourages us to conceptualize things in terms of “basic” rights that ought to trump other concerns. I actually like the kind of provisional, incremental, ad hoc, and not entirely consistent judicial law making that one sees in the common law.
I don’t really see how one can strongly approve us the latter while still being excessively concerned about the former, because it’s the latter which mostly gives us the former. But that’s an argument for another day, I suppose.
Aaron: I have not read the Girgis book.
“I don’t really see how one can strongly approve us the latter while still being excessively concerned about the former, because it’s the latter which mostly gives us the former. But that’s an argument for another day, I suppose.”
No, but that is an argument for another day.
I am no intellectual, just a common sense, active latter-day saint mom. Honestly, who are you people? The theme of this blog says “Truth will prevail.” The truth of this issue is simply, the Lord forbids it, plain and simple. The Book of Mormon warns us “For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.” (Hel 5:2) Now you can cloak this issue as a civil right or as an anti-discrimination measure, or whatever. But the First Presidency has made the Lord’s position very clear, and we, as latter-day saints, will be a party to our nation ripening for destruction if we support same-sex marriage. As for the Church backing off oppositon, I think that is more a case of the Lord sending His servants to warn us as a nation and His Church, and then withdrawing when the people do not listen. I’m sure the Nephites were very confident that the choices they made were “right” too, in spite of the warnings by Samuel the Lamanite.
“I am no intellectual, just a common sense, active latter-day saint mom. Honestly, who are you people?”
This might be my favorite comment in the history of the Bloggernacle.
Nate, I read the essay and I appreciate the fact that you generally find benefit in legalizing gay marriage. But I just can’t see how the legalization of gay marriage will deteriorate the institution of marriage. Wouldn’t it strengthen the institution by allowing for an increase of marriages with lasting potential? I am just not convinced that an argument against gay marriage exists that is more cogent than the main arguments in favor of gay marriage. Sure you are right that the fight for gay marriage isn’t quite like the fight for racial equality; gays aren’t immediately identifiable like blacks and they can be born anywhere. But wouldn’t the legalization of gay marriage help more members of society to learn to value gays more and integrate gays into society, thereby making them feel less prone to rebel against society and/or commit suicide?
Thanks for the thoughtful essay, Nate. I disagree strongly with your conclusions, but I appreciate your insight and your measured consideration.
You REALLY should read the “What is Marriage?” book by Girgis, Anderson, and George. It directly addresses a number of the same issues you have treated in your essay, but with some additional insights and a very different conclusion.
One more comment and I will withdraw:
Nate, I feel like you he ended up with a self-contradicting conclusion: you want same-sex marriage to encourage strong marriages and chastity among homosexuals.
The hallmarks of strong marriage and chastity: fidelity, exclusivity, and permanence are primarily necessary to marriage because it is ordered toward responsible procreation and the flourishing of children. Society has an interest in the fidelity and permanence of sexual partners because complementary sexual activity has a natural relationship to and effect on children.
Once complementarity and order toward procreation are defined out of marriage, and it is redefined instead as a union ordered toward adult companionship, distinguished from friendship mostly by intensity and mutual sexual pleasure, then there are few compelling secular reasons remaining for marriage to require fidelity, exclusivity, or relative permanence.
To think that society will somehow continue to encourage fidelity and impose social shame on infidelity when the relationship has been bereft (by very definition) of its natural reasons for permanence, exclusivity, and fidelity is quite a gamble. Good luck with that!
As the author’s of the What is Marriage Book argue: “Marriage is society’s least restrictive means of ensuring the well-being of children.”
“But the First Presidency has made the Lord’s position very clear, and we, as latter-day saints, will be a party to our nation ripening for destruction if we support same-sex marriage”
The LDS church instructs its local leaders to not take any disciplinary action against members who support the legalization of gay marriage. If someone comes out in open opposition to the LDS church over its stance, or lobbies to get the church to marry gays in the temple, then those are completely different issues. But you can be considered a member in good standing and be in open support of gay marriage. This is a political issue, not a doctrinal one; and the church has a policy of not dictating what ones political persuasions should be.
Max, the heritage article is a further testament that there is no cogent argument against gay marriage. In the article it is claimed that gay marriage is focused on the needs of the adults and not the children and therefore invalid. Hogwash. Strong marriages come before strong families. We best think of the needs of the children by legalizing gay marriage; fewer marriages that end because one or the other partner is a closeted gay and more marriages based on compatible and loving partnerships.
Oh opponents of gay marriage, I beg of you, give me one good solid argument against gay marriage and I will side with you. My suggestion, read the current scholarly research on human sexuality and gay marriage (which you generally don’t do because of your preexisting biases). It thoroughly debunks every last old wives tale about the supposed “damages” that gay marriage will inflict on society.
Like DaveK, your suggestion that gay marriage has little relationship to “the ideas of equality, liberty, and legal rights” and therefore, little relationship to civil rights is completely lost on me. There are 1,138 federal laws that offer benefits, protections, and rights based on one’s marital status. And that is just at the federal level. There is no reasonable way in which one could assert then that gay marriage isn’t tied up very intimately with the ideas of equality, liberty, and legal rights that frame our conception of civil rights. That just sounds silly.
From another point of view we very much limit our appeal to potential members if we are opposed to gay marriage.
It is quoted above that 60% of Americans don’t oppose Gay marriage. In Australia, and probably the US too 80% of people under 40 don’t oppose gay marriage. On LDS.org.au there has been for 6 months a letter written by the area presidency to all Australian politicians using a lot of Conservative American arguments opposing gay marriage. So if I am investigating the church and look at LDS.org.au I think this is important enough for them to put up on their web site (it must be a major tenant of their faith) and I don’t agree with it.
I realise this is not a reason to change. It seems the church in SLC has eased off but the Areas pres hasn’t got the message, and is unnecessarily excluding potential members.
Someone above said the church would not prosecute members for being pro gay marriage. Where is this statement?
“It appears if SSM is to be allowed, it will be allowed on the grounds that the government isn’t allowed to recognize any kind of relationship without recognizing another.”
This is completely wrong. _None_ of the cases finding in favor of gay couples rely on this justification. At all. In fact, as far as I know, _none_ of the briefs by advocates of same-sex marriage in any of the cases rely on this idea either (and I’ve read a lot of them). So this fact claim is basically the opposite of correct.
Instead, the cases rely on a relatively simple and straightforward chain of legal reasoning.
1. Certain types of discrimination based on a person’s inherent characteristics (such as race or gender) are unconstitutional (except in certain instances) as a violation of the constitutional right to Equal Protection.
2. Sexual orientation is a type of inherent characteristic.
3. Laws that discriminate against people based on sexual orientation must therefore satisfy Equal Protection scrutiny.
4. These laws do not fall within EQP exceptions, and thus are unconstitutional.
That’s the reasoning, pretty clearly, in _all_ of the cases. (Try reading them some time, they aren’t hard to find.)
There is a slight variation on the EQP specifics, in part due to differences in state law (that is, what level of EQP scrutiny is used) but that’s the basic pattern in all of them.
This chain of legal reasoning doesn’t rely at all on any claim that “government isn’t allowed to recognize any kind of relationship without recognizing another.”
(However, it’s definitely true that many pop-culture observers characterize the case for same-sex marriage in that way.)
(I will say, the federal case is a little weird because of some limits on the applicability of EQP to sexual orientation in federal court. So in some ways the federal opinions are not as straightforward as the state opinions — at least, the district court ruling was definitely a little quirky in its EQP analysis, though the circuit court was narrower. The state-court rulings on the whole tend to be very straightforward.)
@ Steve (31), the Church has very clearly stated that it weighs in on moral issues and that this is one of them, so while it doesn’t discipline members who support SSM, it has clearly spoken on the moral issue and reiterated that position last week, lest anyone think that because more members support SSM now, the church may change its stance.
Cameron, Steve, it’s a little complicated. I’ll quote from my own forthcoming article:
Kaimipono: Goodrich purported to apply rational basis scrutiny rather than the suspect-category theory you articulated. Hence it held that there was no rational argument in favor of traditional marriage without reaching the question of discrimination against homosexuals. I think that the Iowa Supreme Court also applied rational basis scrutiny.
Thanks for the work on this. I am strongly in favor of a pragmatic approach that separates the terms marriage and interpersonal contract. The hope for the INSTITUTIONS of marriage to have legitimacy and admirable social status resides in value placed it by particular sub-cultural/religious communities. Tocqueville would write a different chapter on American religionS today than he did in 1835. But his theory would hold that the mores are much more powerful than the laws. Now we have such diverse mores (in larger numbers than ever) that we can not pretend marriage refers to the same thing (say, a life-time commitment between a man and woman come what may) for “the large majority of us.” So, yes to state licensing for contracts to raise children or form a domestic partnership. But no to state marriage. Marriage–separate from the state licensing–should be defined by those communities that reverence it in the way they do, and should not require any state approval or sanction. Then in coming years people will naturally ask, ‘what kind of contract or marriage did you decide to have, and why?’ Sounds like a golden question to me!
This would also allow our country to have credible, strong voices for religiously sanctioned life-time marriages (or beyond). These voices would still say divorce is the last choice and sex within marriage is the best choice. And having children is a good thing, etc. The multiple voices would then be clearer in their differences, and outside our country they would then be understood to reflect we are not all the same here. In intercultural and interreligious diplomacy one of the leading indicators of the decadence of America (and all religions coming from here) is rampant divorce, illegitimacy and acceptance of non-marital sex, homosexuality. REGARDLESS of our moral views on these issues, it helps our cultural credibility pragmatically to say to billions of on-lookers that think our country is “lost” that many still hold to older views and try to live by them–admitting that many do not. I have found this approach tends to keep doors open in straight laced places that would otherwise be closed in contempt. Honesty and clarity are useful.
Nate, you’re right that Goodrich didn’t use suspect category analysis. However, the framing was very similar — the court’s ultimate ruling was that the state had no rational-basis reason to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. So it’s still framed very much as “we don’t discriminate against people for sexual orientation,” not as “government can’t recognize one kind of relationship without recognizing all.”
See, e.g., the language from Goodridge:
“The marriage ban works a deep and scarring hardship on a very real segment of the community for no rational reason. The absence of any reasonable relationship between, on the one hand, an absolute disqualification of same-sex couples who wish to enter into civil marriage and, on the other, protection of public health, safety, or general welfare, suggests that the marriage restriction is rooted in persistent prejudices against persons who are (or who are believed to be) homosexual. [FN33] “The Constitution cannot control such prejudices but neither can it tolerate them. Private biases may be outside the reach of the law, but the law cannot, directly or indirectly, give them effect.” Palmore v. Sidoti, 466 U.S. 429, 433 (1984) (construing Fourteenth Amendment). Limiting the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage to opposite-sex couples violates the basic premises of individual liberty and equality under law protected by the Massachusetts Constitution.”
Typo, sorry. In my second sentence it should read ‘placed on them’
For a very brief essay that generally agrees with Nate’s point about equality but suggests a different overall view on the issue from Nate’s or from that taken above by another Steve Smith (with a name like Steve Smith, there are lots of us around), you might check out http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/03/7912/
@Kaimi– it will be interesting, I suppose, to see how much energy the church puts into support of local leadership that decides to withhold recommends etc from those who speak out in favor of SSM (or at least those of us who no longer oppose it, as wish-washy as that sounds). Your comment has me wondering.
Kaimipono: I agree. I just think the Goodridge court was intellectually dishonest.
I have read through the comments, though I have yet to finish the essay, but just wanted to take a moment to remark upon how very surreal it is, even after many years of reading and engaging in discussions like this one, to see so many people who know little or nothing about what it is to be a gay or lesbian person, pontificating upon how gay people think, feel, behave, reproduce, don’t reproduce, should be chaste, are not chaste, and so forth.
I read comments suggesting that perhaps the only reason why I ought to be permitted a legal civil marriage is so that I would finally realize that I must be chaste, and not a profligately promiscuous sort of person. I look back at the 17 years of fidelity and commitment my wife and I shared *before* we were permitted to legally join our lives in civil marriage back in 2008 (6 months prior to Prop 8’s passage), and wonder if we were less chaste for not having been permitted to marry? Are we *more* chaste now that we have been legally married for the past nearly 5 years? As far as I can see, we have been committed to one another in monogamous union in the eyes of one another, our families and God for 22 years, with or without a civil marriage license.
Does that mean that I do not care about that civil marriage license? No, of course not. Our family deserves equal protections just like every other family. Which brings up another area of extreme cognitive dissonance for me. In these discussions, many people have opinions, often very strong ones, about gay people being “incapable” of becoming “real parents,” and therefore, being disqualified (in their opinion) from the “most basic” premise for meriting civil marriage rights.
As the mother of two children, I find arguments of this nature rather absurd. Most people who would deny same-sex couples the right to marry have no real solution for the fact that many gay and lesbian couples are *already* parents, and more are becoming parents every day. They decry this fact and claim that unproven and nebulous “harms” will be brought upon children who are raised with two parents of the same sex, and yet, when push comes to shove, they are unwilling to suggest that children of gay parents be taken away and given to heterosexual parents (or, more likely, placed in group homes and institutions, since we already have difficulty finding adoptive homes for children removed from their parents). And yet, while being unwilling to so change our country’s strong protections for the reproductive rights and freedoms of all citizens, so as to exclude gay people from becoming parents, they are unwilling to grant to those very same parents the rights of civil marriage, which they freely admit are designed with at least partial intent for the protection and nurture of children.
So, they are, on the one hand, creating (or supporting the creation of) an entire separate class of children who fall outside of the protections with which civil marriage would provide to them through their parents’ access, and at the same time, advocating for the continued denial of those rights and protections to those self-same children.
The inconsistency of this logic is staggering.
Well, that’s more than I intended to say without first completing my reading of the essay, but I really wanted to share the incredibly odd feeling engendered by reading so many people who feel so eminently qualified to prescribe what sort of life, what sort of legal rights, should be available to me and my family, while some portion of those people seem to have no real understanding or grasp of who I am and what my family actually looks like. Gives one kind of a hollow feeling in the pit of one’s stomach, I must say.
Sorry – forgot to subscribe.
Nate wrote: “First, there are already large numbers of children with gay parents. How do we want to structure their lives? This is a more accurate way of framing the question, in my opinion, than asking “Do we want to have gay parenthood.” Gay parenthood has already happened and I don’t think that we can or should suppress it. ”
Of course, absolutely. Gay parenthood does happen now, and precisely because it happens (largely) outside of marriage, only the most motivated gay couples choose to raise children. Thus they tend to be quite stable in the upper-middle-class blue-state mold, in my observation. If gay marriage does indeed feed a resurgence of reproductive marriage culture, then marginal gay couples will be moved by social pressure to raise children, but without the intrinsic motivation their families may be as fragile as unmotivated heterosexual couples’. The mainstreaming of a parenting model of gay marriage may, ironically, lead to more unstable gay families than we observe presently.(I don’t think this is an argument against gay marriage, however.)
I’m much less sure than you that gay marriages will always remain very low. As I said, I agree that male-male childraising married couples will be capped by biology, but given the hollowing out of traditionally male occupations in the working classes and women’s ascent relative to men in this strata, women look a lot more marriageable than men. Pure speculation (and again, not a reason to oppose gay marriage), but it would not surprise me if same sex female couples become much more common. This would be good for women, and probably good for children (certainly better than being raised by unsupported mothers with unstable heterosexual relationships). Not so good for men, though, who are already struggling and for whom the “marriage premium” is robust.
Steve Smith (43) — nice to see you commenting on T&S. I’m a big fan of your work.
Well said Lorian! Surreal indeed! I wounder what it would have felt like to be a slave at auction.
Rosalynde, your comment neglects two important points.
You suggest on the one hand that if nationwide civil marriage equality becomes a reality, that “marginal” same-sex couples will begin to have children, and do a significantly poorer job of parenting these children than either other gay couples or than straight couples. You don’t seem to realize the lengths to which gay people must go in order to become parents. Gay people don’t have children by accident. And when we become parents, it is after months or, in many cases, *years* of expense, worry, and intensive effort, either to adopt, or to go through the pain and difficulty of fertility care. As opposed to 16-year-old heterosexuals who fall into parenthood kicking and screaming. I find it extremely unrealistic to suppose that gay parents, as a group, will ever be less qualified, less committed, less devoted as parents, than heterosexuals who have unplanned, unwanted, and often unwelcome children. The research thus far (and there’s about 40 years worth of it out there) suggests that gay parents have parenting outcomes equal to their heterosexual counterparts. I see no reason for that to change.
Secondly, you suggest that there is not some built-in upper limit on the number of same-sex couples who will see civil marriage. Equal marriage foes are often anxious to minimize the numbers of gay people who exist in nature — claiming again and again that Kinsey’s estimate of 10% of the population was grossly overstated, and that reality is probably under 2%, possibly less. I tend to agree that Kinsey’s number was likely overstated, though not likely by as much as antigay groups claim. But the fact is, you cannot have it both ways. Why would you suppose that, if equal marriage is legal, either the percentage of the population which is gay would somehow dramatically increase, *or* more presumably heterosexual people would, for some reason, find themselves irresistably drawn to enter marriages with people of their own sex to whom they are not even sexually attracted. It really makes no sense. Any way you look at it, marriages between same-sex couples are not likely to ever exceed, at the most extreme ends of probability, 4-5% of all marriages. Hardly an earth-shattering number, though the benefits of such inclusion and the detriments of exclusion are pretty earth-shattering to many families like mine.
Your comment that “I’m much less sure than you that gay marriages will always remain very low” seems to presuppose that a substantial part of the female population either (1) would find it just as easily enter into an intimate relationship with a woman as with a man, or (2) would prefer entering into a platonic marriage with another woman than a romantic marriage with a man, and are only kept from pursuing this option by legal obstacles and/or social stigma. Either claim would be extraordinary and would require a decent amount of evidence before realistically considering.
Nate Oman (45):
“I agree. I just think the Goodridge court was intellectually dishonest.”
No more so than was the majority in _Romer_.
1) I would separate “marriage” from “contracts” between persons. Marriage historically was defined by religion. Let religions continue to define and perform marriage any way they wish. Let gov’t define and enforce contracts freely entered into. Any two people can enter into a contract and specify a variety of relationships, including passing on wealth or whatever. Let gov’t get out of marriage while enforcing contracts. Getting out of marriage business means gov’t stop granting special benefits to “marriage”, e.g., tax breaks.
2) Why should society “strengthen” homosexual unions (marriage or contract)? Would it not be in society’s long term interest to reinforce positively heterosexual families and negatively homosexual families? Since reproduction, not just child-rearing, is a necessity to sustainable society, heterosexual family should be favored. And since male-female parents represent the preferred model of parenting and do better, on average, at raising the kind of children we prefer, male-female headed families are in the interest of society and should be reinforced over homosexual families.
1. No, marriage was a societal tradition long before it became a religious institution. In the Christian tradition, for instance, the church had little-to-no interest and involvement in marriage until about the time of the Protestant Reformation and the Roman Catholic Church’s Council of Trent in the 16th century CE. Prior to that time, the church’s main interest in marriage was confined to the political unions represented by marriages among royalty. It was more of a power-brokerage than any particular investment in controlling the details of family life among the peasantry. In fact, marriages between commoners were considered to be beneath the interest or involvement of the church, being more akin to the mating of cattle and other animals — something dirty and distasteful. The church was concerned with the prevention of divorce, but not with the mechanics of or control of marriage, itself. The Council of Trent was the first point where the church officially designated marriage to be a “sacrament.”
2. You appear to be suggesting, here, that the children of homosexual couples are inferior to the children of heterosexual couples and deserve to be treated as such by society. You seem to feel that it is appropriate to punish children born to or adopted by same-sex couples by withholding rights and protections from them so that their parents will understand that society wishes to “negatively reinforce” their relationships. Really? The “sins” of the parents should be visited upon the children? And do you really believe that withholding societal protections from children will cause gay people to stop reproducing/adopting?
Considering that protection of the rights and well-being of children is a societal value not just because the kids are cute and we like them, but because protecting their rights and the stability of the homes in which they are raised is *good for society*, your proposal seems awfully short-sighted to me.
Incidentally, Allen Lambert, I neglected to mention this portion of your above post:
First, what exactly do you mean when you say, “the kind of children we prefer”? What kind of children would those be?
Second, can you please present supporting documentation that opposite-sex parents have better parenting outcomes as compared with same-sex parents? Because every stitch of valid, peer-reviewed, scientific studies I’ve read, along with every major professional medical, psych and social work organization in this country, agree that same-sex parents are equally effect as compared with their opposite-sex peers at producing healthy, happy, well-adjusted offspring.
And please don’t present any of those disingenuous articles claiming that studies of children of divorced parents being raised by single moms somehow prove that same-sex parents are inferior.
You don’t seem to be a Mormon, based on your assertion that marriage was first a social institution, but who would would dare to publish a study against homosexual parenting? They’d berated into irrelevance.
I’m really stuck on this “gay people don’t produce the kind of children we prefer” thing. I’m feeling kind of sick. I look at my sweet little daughters, Ruth and Rose — Ruth the “old soul” with gifts of music and wit and literary sensitivity, and Rose, the child with autism and an amazing gift for art, who cannot stop drawing, all day long. I wonder what it is about these two beautiful girls that makes them “not the kind of children we prefer.” Kind of makes me feel like crying that someone would say something like that about them without having ever met them, or even seen them. I’ve developed a pretty thick skin over the years, but sometimes these kinds of comments truly and deeply astound me. It’s almost as though people think that I and my wife and our children and other families like ours are not actually human. I feel nauseated.
Cameron, I’m not Mormon, but even if I were, I still know enough of church and world religious history (and it’s well-documented) that I would know for a fact that marriage as a social institution predates religious involvement. It predates Judeo-Christianity entirely. It predates the Bible, and the oral traditions incorporated into the Bible.
Jesus had two Dads, and He seemed to turn out just fine.
There’s a huge literature criticizing gay people. Who would dare to publish? Um, Maggie Gallagher, David Blankenhorn, a whole buncha other people. The problem isn’t that publications attacking gay people as parents wouldn’t find a market. There’s a huge market. The problem is that there isn’t evidence that gay people are bad parents. And there’s a continually growing body of evidence that they’re pretty much the same as anyone else.
Nate, I took the time to reread the essay. And honestly I can’t follow it very well. What exactly is your beef with gay marriage apart from the “social salience of the arguments that have generated political support for gay marriage?” If gay marriage were promoted in a different way that you found more palatable would you then come out in full support of gay marriage? In some parts of the essay you appear to contradict yourself. For instance on page 9, you write “My second worry is that gay marriage will weaken the institution of marriage itself” (p. 9). Then on page 12 you write “I do not find gay marriages threatening to the institution of marriage.” Which is it?
My take: you’re experiencing “apologist syndrome.” This is a sort of cognitive dissonance that occurs when you want so desperately to defend the traditional LDS stance on a particular doctrine that is at odds with the prevailing opinions of the leading scientists and historians, but are at the same time persuaded that that prevailing opinion is the most cogent and correct. So you perform a feat of mental gymnastics, as in your 15-page essay, not necessarily to try to justify or prove the correctness of the church’s stance, but merely to try to prove that the issue is so complicated that a suspension of judgment is well warranted and that there is room for skepticism towards the prevailing scholarly opinion, even if you can’t immediately articulate clear reasons as to why just yet. Meanwhile Occam’s Razor takes a backseat. My advice, just come out more directly in favor of gay marriage already; join the growing number of active LDS who are. You know you want to.
I just wanted to reach out and say that the God I believe in loves your beautiful children. It warms my heart to hear your sweet descriptions of them and I wish you the best of luck on this journey of motherhood. I think I can speak for everyone here when I say that we love all children – without exception. It’s actually a doctrine of Mormon beliefs. I can tell that you are a dedicated mother and want what is best for your children. I do too. The lesbian couples that I personally know raising children are fierce and fantastic mothers. I remember cheering with them during soccer games and ballet performances over a decade ago. Our babies are now in high school and we still are busy mothering them. It is truly one of life’s greatest experiences to love a child. Ruth and Rose are lucky to have you for a Mom.
Steve: I am pretty sure you don’t know me well enough to speculate about my psychology. I don’t think I contradict myself, although at times my language my be unclear. In a nutshell, I think that gay marriages are a good idea and should be encouraged. I think that the bundle of legal, equality, and rights based arguments used to generate political support for gay marriage are troubling because they entrench ways of thinking about marriage that are potentially destructive.
Rosalynde: I am pretty sure this Steve Smith is not the Steve Smith of whom you are thinking.
Nate, see comment 43.
Lorian (51), you seem not to have actually read my comment or missed every point I made. I have no beef against gay parenting.
Nate W (52), yeah, like I said that is just speculation on my part, and not a reason to oppose gay marriage.
Gay promiscuity and gay chastity are both outside the bounds of God’s law, despite perceived differences of degree. So, the only logical conclusion is that we, as believers in God, cannot support or lend aid to laws that violates God’s law. Amen.
RW: “Another Steve Smith” I think that this is the T&S Steve Smith referring to the Steve Smith at USD.
“So, the only logical conclusion is that we, as believers in God, cannot support or lend aid to laws that violates God’s law.”
Steve Smith (#62): If that is what you got out of the essay, then you are quite right–you didn’t follow it very well at all. I don’t think the problem is with the essay though, because it took quite a few gymnastics on your part to come to the conclusions you came to.
Ooops! Looks like the “real” Steve Smith from USD Law School is the Steve Smith in comment 43. USD Steve Smith is one of my favorite law profs and a very smart guy. Welcome to T&S. Love to get your response to the essay some time.
Many of the gay parents (and aspiring gay parents) I know don’t fit into upper-middle-classdom. Most of them fit comfortably into the 2-income lower- to middle-middle class, though some of them include at least one partner who is marginally- or unemployed.
I don’t know what to make of that, and I don’t have any idea if my anecdotal experience is a better representation of gay parenting than yours, but I was surprised at how not-wealthy most gay parents I know are.
Exactly. While the stereotype of gay and lesbian couples (mostly perpetuated by the media) is that they are upper-middle class, the reality is that they earn less on average than straight couples:
That’s very interesting, Nate and Sam, I appreciate the correction. I suppose I’ve been too influenced by Modern Family! ;)
Lorian, I went back and read all the comments in this thread (not just the ones responding to mine). In light of other comments, I can see why you were on the defensive when you read mine, and I wanted to add my voice of support to you as a mother. You sound like a loving and capable parent, and I have no doubt that your wonderful daughters will grow up to be fine human beings. My perspective is different from yours on some issues, but on the question of your fitness as a parent and the value and dignity of each member of your family, we’re on exactly the same page. Warm wishes to you.
The income stuff on gay families is interesting. I wonder what happens to the nu bees when you break them out by gender. I also wonder if the trends shift as heterosexual relationships by closeted homosexuals recede as a rout into parenthood by homosexuals.
Lorain: I am pretty sure that marriage was a sacrament before Trent. My understanding is that Trent merely made the sacrament a strongly favored condition for marriage. Pre-Trent canon law recognized marriages without the sacrament. (I think that this was true after Trent as well, although the sin of marrying without the sacrament was upgraded.). You are right that Trent was an important event in the development of ideas about marriage in the West. I think it inaccurate and unfair, however, to say that pre-Trent the Catholic Church was unconcerned with non-elite marriages, regarding commoners as little more than mating animals.
Nate, if you allow gay marriage at all – I don’t see how you can prevent it from becoming a question of civil rights or equality.
Gay unions are intrinsically NOT about hierarchy, limits of freedom, and responsibility for children. The sheer brute biological reality of gay unions is a free romantic alliance between consenting adults without children inherently implicated. There is no basic connection to hierarchy, ties, or social structure. Gay unions – at their heart – ARE about free individual alliances couched in the language of the individual.
I don’t think it’s possible to move toward gay marriage and have this NOT be about individual rights and individual equality.
Especially in light of the fact that our society frankly doesn’t care about the framework of obligations that have always been inherent in marriage anyway. Your description of marriage as being about obligations, hierarchy, and social ties has already been completely eroded.
Which is why we are even able to talk lightly about gay marriage in the first place. The only reason the case for gay marriage is seen as compelling is because the institution of American marriage is already socially worthless and meaningless.
You may want to clarify and explain this remark…
Amanda #63 – Thank you for your very kind words. They mean a great deal.
Rosalynde #74 – Thank you, also. Sorry for any misunderstanding on my part.
As to the question of socio-economic status: My experiences in this area are mostly as anecdotally-derived as those of other posters, but for what it is worth, traditional wisdom and a certain amount of research has held that gay male couples tend, as a rule, to be financially better off than lesbian couples, for the simple reason that men in our society (even gay men) tend to be better paid than their female counterparts. While the stereotype of the two high-powered professional gay men living in a penthouse is probably not really representative of the average gay male couple, it is more likely to be true than if the couple were lesbians.
The lesbians I’ve known in my life were generally somewhere between working-class to mid-level professionals. And, of course, when children are introduced into the equation, we face the same issues as any other family with young children. Lesbians, in particular, since usually one or both are birth-mothers, deal with the economic issues which are the outgrowth of pregnancy, maternity leave, and breastfeeding. In many cases (probably at least as many as in heterosexual marriages), one parent will be a SAHP, leaving the family with a single income.
When you add to that the sometimes exorbitant expenses involved in Assisted Reproductive Technologies and/or adoption (or surrogacy and ART for the men), even couples with a substantial income can find themselves economically disadvantaged.
My wife and I knew right away that we wanted children together. We began fertility treatments when we’d been together for about 3 years. As my wife had the better job (accounting software consulting), we decided that I would be the one to attempt pregnancy first. As it turned out, we *both* had significant fertility issues, and it took seven years of treatments (including multiple cycles of IVF, plus many frozen embryo transfers) before I finally became pregnant with our last frozen embryos.
I can’t even begin to tell you how much it cost us financially to get pregnant. We were fortunate that our business, which we started about the time we started fertility treatments, was doing fairly well in the years leading up to Y2K. After 9/11 (right after our twins were born prematurely at 33 weeks), the business took a big hit and has yet to return to its pre-9/11 success. We get by with the income my wife generates, but it’s been tough, especially raising twin daughters with one of them requiring a great deal of medical, psych and social interventions for her autism.
My wife recently got her Master’s and is in the middle of a mid-life career change. I’ve been a SAHP through the children’s early to middle childhood, teaching cello and violin lessons on the side to help supplement income, and doing some custom programming work for the business from time to time as well as helping out with accounting. We had recently decided it might be a good time for me to look for work outside the home, but then my daughter with autism, who just started middle school, ran into some serious difficulties adjusting to the middle school environment, and was treated abusively by a special ed teacher, so now I am homeschooling her for the foreseeable future.
My point, I guess, is that it is not terribly helpful to broadbrush “gay and lesbian parents” as being of any particular socio-economic category, or to suggest that those who struggle financially cannot still be good, solid, loving parents to their children. What it comes down to is that gay people are just *people*. We really do not look significantly different from the mostly-heterosexual communities in which we live. We have the same economic concerns — worse for some, since in about 30 of the 50 states, gay people can be legally fired from a job, denied housing or employment, and even denied service in a restaurant or other public establishment, simply for being gay. In such an environment, being “out” (which gay couples with children generally are, since it’s kind of hard to hide our family structures) can have serious economic consequences for families with same-sex parents. We have additional economic concerns not faced by many straight-parented families, including the fact that our health insurance typically costs us a lot more. Even though a few states have passed laws requiring insurance companies to offer spousal coverage to same-sex spouses and partners, such benefits are costly, and, when paid for by our employers, are taxable as income, rather than offsetting taxable income as is the case for heterosexual couples.
But still, we look pretty much like our neighbors. We buy homes, drive cars, take our kids to school, go to the doctor and dentist, walk the dog, work, take care of our kids..you know the drill. It is not our vast, limitless gay money that makes us good parents. It’s not because we are wealthy, powerful or influential that our kids are pretty much indistinguishable from yours in terms of standard measures of intelligence, happiness, health and well-being. It’s mostly just because we *love* our kids. We *want* them and we value them. We work hard to get them and we work hard to parent them. Money or no money, our kids mean the same things to us as they mean to heterosexuals. They are the hearts we wear on our sleeves — the best parts of ourselves, our treasures, our babes, for whom we would give our very lives if called upon to do so.
Nate, I’ve read over your article now, so I’ll follow-up on my earlier question (#5). First, thank you again. You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into this.
Unfortunately, I failed to see any section of the article dealing with the 100s of civil rights issues that our Gov’t ties into marriage – things such as tax consequences, domestic relations, visitation rights, retirement and benefits rights, etc. Perhaps the Gov’t never should have tied all these rights into marriage. But considering that it did, how can gay marriage not be a civil rights issue?
I did see you address the Loving decision. It seems you view that decision as pertaining to civil rights because antimiscegenation laws were a recent development – an outgrowth of the racial postCivil War south – and not a historical part of society’s view of marriage. [Please correct me if I misread]. If that is the case, would you not also view the DOMA case as pertaining to civil rights? Just like antimiscegenation laws, DOMA was passed to express public disdain and intruded on an area of law that the Federal Gov’t historically had left to the states.
In all, I sympathsize with your sense that marriage is much more than social recognition of love, much more than a bundle of civil rights. But to the degree civil marriage does relate to the bundle (a unassailable point IMO), I can’t see a defensible argument for the position that civil marriage laws have nothing to do with civil rights.
I am with Amanda here. I also think it takes a lot of courage to stand up and make your voice heard in a forum where you know people will disagree with you.
As to the central argument . . . at the end of the day, for me, it is about civil rights. The arguments in favor of not allowing gay people to marry one another just don’t hold up in a society where church and state should be separated. To that end, I agree with what others have voiced here: the government should ONLY give out civil union certificates and view it as a contract with rights and benefits being meted out in exchange for keeping to the contract. Leave “marriage” up to the churches.
This shouldn’t be a hard compromise for LDS people to swallow. We already believe in two different types of marriage, and believe that different God-granted privileges accompany those types of marriages. I think God blesses earnest parents everywhere and of any gender seeking the best for their children. In addition, there are already several countries that do not recognize our Church’s authority to marry; those seeking temple sealings in those countries must be married civilly first. In those countries it is just accepted as a matter of keeping the law of the land.
I have now read Nate’s essay and I understand better which type of libertarian and traditionalist he is.
I think the entire essay is a minor, indirect attack on his main concern.
His main concern should be that as a society we prefer individual liberty over a preference for the welfare of children and over marriage as a support for children. He worries that the arguments for gay marriage may further institutionalize this preference. This may be well placed but the scale seem almost trivial.
Why not the direct assault on the sexual revolution and easy no-fault divorce? Why not take on Goliath? I asked earlier about Lawrence vs. Texas without much success but I’ll try again.
So, let’s try to take seriously this preference for marriage as primarily (or at least significantly) a support for children. If we think marriage should be for the children then why don’t we define parents as married by the act of having a child together? We do require people to support their children, so why not extend this to the parents obligations to each other? We know it is correlated with the well-being of the children, so why not require it?
I’m not saying they must live together but why not have a legal status, that is “parents” and create an institution that has marriage-like properties that you can’t be divorced from if you have children?
We would only really find out how much we care about the children aspect of marriage from the companion aspect is we thought about separating them.
There are vastly more numbers of children born out-of-wedlock than to gay parents. Why the disproportionate concern with the effect of gays?
If we cared about children and we think marriage helps children, why don’t we create incentives and/or penalties for people who have children while not married that incentiveizes them to marry? I’m not a lawyer, but are there differences in the legal parental obligation for married vs. unmarried? If not, then why would we think the state’s interest in marriage is about support for children rather than couple’s reciprocal obligations since they are so easily separable?
I think you are correct to have worries about individualism and sexual liberty, but can gay marriage be more than a minor skirmish?
I believe that a major problem with passing along these positive aspects of tradition, is that tradition has some incredibly large skeletons in its closet. In my opinion, no one has yet come up with a convincing argument for how to tell the good parts and the bad parts of tradition apart, in a way that saves the authority of traditional authority. Hence, its very difficult to pass along to the younger generation.
Take many of the comments here. Young people would seem to have a legitimate point in “Why should we trust you about gays, when you were wrong about slavery and women?” The voice of tradition either defends that they weren’t wrong (women and blacks fared better under tradition), or that this case is different (gay rights are not a civil rights issue) or just defend it all as a package (it may not be perfect, bu mark my words kids, this is the end of civilization.)
I’m not saying those arguments are wrong, I’m saying those arguments are unconvincing to the majority of young people. So, if Nate cares about other people’s children, I think its a lost cause to argue for lifetime or eternal marriage – its not selling. Too many people don’t want irrevocable choices in spouses, even though they make an irrevocable choice in having children.
Why not try to salvage some part of tradition and create new institutions that replace some of the mutual obligations without the all of the historical baggage? The alternative seems to be for the state to take over these functions, with all the undesirable side-effects on liberty.
Seth R. –
I have to wonder how you might feel if others were discussing your love and commitment to your spouse and children in such a harsh and clinical manner as we find in many places on this thread? If your most loving and intimate relationships and attachments were the subject of public debate as to their reality, validity, morality, legitimacy, value to others… I wish I could describe to you what it is like from my perspective to read words like yours, above. I really, really do. I wish that I could bottle that feeling and distribute it freely, so that others could begin to see this issue through the eyes and minds of those of us who are *actually* affected by it.
First off, regard for the institution of marriage, and the limitations on freedom of action intrinsic in it, is lower than it’s ever been in human history. Divorce rates are alarmingly high. And cohabitation is rapidly becoming the preferred method for adults to live together instead of marriage. It’s not hard to find articles like this one on the subject:
Increasingly, people just don’t see the value of marriage. That seems to me to be an indisputable characteristic of modern adult culture in many first world countries – the US included.
Secondly, the reason its so easy to countenance gay marriage is precisely because marriage is so lightly regarded. No one considers it a big deal or anything important anymore, so what’s the big deal in letting gays have it as well?
You see this attitude implicitly in the popular pro-gay marriage argument of “what’s the harm?”
Indeed, what is the harm? Seeing as how heterosexual culture has so thoroughly savaged marriage, it’s hard to see how the gay community could do much worse than has already been done to it.
You also see this attitude in all the arguments that appeal to allowing gay marriage by pointing out how terribly heterosexuals are behaving within the institution. These arguments are possible because of how terribly damaged marriage has already become as an institution.
If marriage was actually still seen as something lasting, binding, restricting, and intrinsically tied to children, I doubt it would even be half as popular a notion in the gay community as it currently is. It’s because marriage has been stripped of those notions of commitment and genetic continuity of society, and reduced to a mere symbol of committed adult romance that it holds its current appeal.
The notion of marriage as a individual right is intrinsic in the idea gay marriage. You can’t have one without promoting the other.
I would not say completely free and eroded.
In community property states marriage is a significant obligation. A gay partner with more income is taking on a significant burden in a marriage.
I also think you are exaggerating the seriousness of marriage for those those take it serious. Its not everyone but since I have some of the same opinions, I have the urge to point out you are overplaying your hand. No one involved in divorce thinks marriage is meaningless.
Lorian, I get around the Internet.
As such, it so happens, I have had my marriage questioned, dissected, and debated, actually. I have been called a lot of abusive names.
But my hurt feelings don’t really factor in here. Neither do those of anyone else.
marty, I think divorce is only one aspect of the current cultural regard for marriage. Another is cohabitation, and the trend toward sex without commitment. Marriage is eroded BOTH by how easily it is dissolved (relatively), and by the alternative forms that people are increasingly choosing instead of marriage.
Science Teacher Mommy –
Thank you. And I agree with you that civil marriage should be granted exclusively based upon the state’s criteria and religious/sacramental marriage exclusively based upon the criteria of the particular church granting the religious marriage. That’s already the case in the United States, actually. The institutions of civil and religious marriage are separate and distinct, except for the fact that the government has granted licensure to religious authorities to solemnize civil marriages within the same ceremony as the religious marriage, for the convenience of couples who seek to engage in both institutions, as well as restricting these licensed religious personnel from solemnizing any religious marriage which does not meet civil marriage criteria (i.e., polygamous marriages, same-sex marriages, consanguineous marriages, underage marriages).
I would agree that greater distinction should be made, and that religious authorities should no longer be licensed to solemnize civil marriages, so that there would be less confusion in the minds of the general public, who tend to believe that, because they had both a civil and religious marriage performed the same day in the same ceremony, this means that the church is somehow responsible for their civil marriage, or the government for their religious marriage.
Clearly, the two cannot and should not be conflated, as one can readily engage in a civil marriage without engaging in a religious marriage (as demonstrated by the fact that a Catholic church still considers a couple to be “living in sin” after a civil marriage unless they go to a priest and obtain a sacramental marriage, and the fact that, as you point out, a civil marriage license, duly formalized by a civil authority, does not mean that an LDS couple has been sealed unless they have also gone to the temple and had a sealing ceremony). Additionally, the distinction is clear because finding a minister, bishop, priest or other religious authority to pronounce you religiously married will not qualify you for the benefits and protections of *civil* marriage unless you qualify for and obtain a *civil* marriage license and have it formalized by an authority authorized to do so by the state.
As to calling all civil marriages, “civil unions,” and leaving the word, “marriage,” to be granted exclusively by religious leaders, I’m really not sure what this would achieve. First of all, there are many heterosexuals who are not religious, who would be deeply offended to have religious groups try to downgrade their marriages to “civil unions” based upon their religious beliefs or lack thereof. Additionally, there is nothing inherently religious about the word, “marriage.” It is derived from the Latin word, “maritus,” which predates Christianity. It’s use in the Bible is purely a function of translation. It represents *concepts* which are common to human societies across the world and throughout history (not necessarily related to one-man-one-woman lifetime unions) and which are not specific to any religion. To change our entire family code and legal system in order to preserve the *use* of the term “marriage” to belong exclusively to religious groups is not really particularly logical or justified.
In any case, I believe we are agreed at the most basic level, that civil marriage and religious marriage are, and should remain, separate and distinct entities, and probably should be made *more* distinct by teasing out the ways in which they intertwine and overlap, and eliminating these sources of confusion.
What a bizarre idea, Seth. It is actually *because* more and more gay couples are having, adopting and raising our own children that marriage has become such a terribly important value in the LGBT community. It is because of the rights and protections given to children and families by civil marriage that our families are so disadvantaged by the denial of this right. If it were just about “adult romance” and not about making lifetime commitments for the protection of our children and families, why would we bother? Anyone can have “adult romance” with whomever they please without any need for struggle, for commitment, for legal protections and supports. Much easier that way, and, as you point out, much easier to dissolve. We aren’t looking for “easy dissolution.” We’re looking for rights and protections for our spouses and families commensurate to those provided to opposite-sex couples who make similar commitments and build similar family structures.
Actually, this is one of the best arguments in favor of equal marriage rights. It is precisely because of the creation of “alternative forms” like “civil unions” that marriage rates have declined in countries like the Netherlands. The Netherlands created, as a means of staving off the fight over same-sex civil marriage equality, a “separate but sort of equal” institution called a “civil union,” which was available to homosexual and heterosexual couples, with “marriage” being reserved only for heterosexuals. These civil unions provided many of the same rights and protections as marriage, but were easier and less expensive to dissolve. As a result, many heterosexual couples saw the advantages in choosing a civil union over a civil marriage, and civil marriage rates declined dramatically. Since that point, the government has opened civil marriage to same-sex couples on an equal footing, but the damage to marriage rates has been done. Had they not attempted to offer a (in the words of Justice Ginsburg) “skim milk” version in order to reinforce society’s prejudice against same-sex couples as less deserving or valid than their heterosexual peers, it is likely that equality for same-sex couples would have had little or no impact on the already declining marriage rates in the Netherlands, or might actually have impacted them positively.
Lorian, I would actually be interested in learning more about the rates that gay couples are adopting or raising children, in addition to the rates of commitment in gay relationships.
My suspicion is that it isn’t even half as significant as the hype, but I could be wrong.
Seth, anecdotally speaking, nearly every gay couple I know between the ages of 30 and 60 is raising children, either adopted by the couple or given birth to by one of them or a surrogate. I live in one of the most conservative areas of southern California. The vast majority of gay people in my acquaintance are in committed, long-term relationships. Many of us are legally married (got married in the six-month window between legalization and the passage of Prop 8.
I like the essay, Nate (I hope that’s not too discouraging for you to hear). I’m especially fond of it’s ability to, as it were, separate the wheat from the chaff in the comments, ie to provide a forum for sensible and reasoned concerns about marriage equality to be aired _and_ for the hard-line, gays-will-RUIN-marriage argument to put its derangement on full display.
We tend to associate with people like us.
Anyway, I’d be interested in seeing the hard data on that.
Seth, I’d like to see the hard data supported your contrary claims. ;) Yes, I admitted that I was presenting only anecdote. I don’t have scientific data at hand on this particular point, nor am I willing to take the time to research it because, at its heart, I believe the question of what percentage of gay couples raise children to be a red herring. We don’t demand proof of intent to procreate, or proof of procreational capabilities from heterosexual couples in order to grant them, as a couple, the protections and rights of civil marriage.
I do believe that civil marriage rights and protections are especially important for families who are raising children, and, as such, should reasonably and fairly be considered essential needs to be granted to all families on an equal basis, rather than denied to some parents and children because of religious disapproval of who the parents are. But I think that to require a procreational “test” of prospective marriage candidates (particularly if such test is applied unequally to same-sex couples and not to opposite-sex couples) denies the validity of marriage between those (hetero as well as homosexual) who would otherwise choose to remain childless, who are afflicted with conditions which interfere with the ability to have or raise children, or who are past the age of child-bearing.
“hard data on that”
Should she like post some internet article she found and then say that it’s easy to find other articles like it on the internet?
Science Teacher Mommy (81) said: “the government should ONLY give out civil union certificates and view it as a contract with rights and benefits being meted out in exchange for keeping to the contract. Leave “marriage” up to the churches”
Lorian (88) answered very appropriately. (BTW, Lorian, thank you for your precious contribution here)
Moreover, the international diversity makes Science Teacher Mommy’s proposal impossible. In many countries legal “marriage” (thus called) is only a civil matter, while a church can add a ceremony to it afterwards and call it “church marriage”, but it has no legal standing. A church is not allowed to solemnize a union without the legal papers of the civil jurisdiction. That goes back to the Napoleonic code and the separation between state and church and is applied in many countries around the world.
The Mormon Church has had to adapt to this in the concerned countries: LDS couples have to marry first civilly (thus also allowing non-members to attend and participate in the occasion — another bonus). Next the couple can go to the temple, the next day, next week, whatever is convenient.
Nate #76 – Yes, I’m aware that marriage as a sacrament was a concept discussed in the church prior to Trent (notably at Florence), but it was, prior to that time, considered, if anything a “lesser” sacrament which was not necessarily performed by or under the auspices of a priest, but rather (like the Jewish model) by the couple, themselves, and according to the customs and traditions of the local society or culture. In other words, the church acknowledged the couple’s relationship (and prevented its dissolution), but did not initiate the marriage, itself, seeing this as more of a cultural/social function than a religious one.
In fact, my statement that marriage was not considered holy enough to, under most circumstances, be performed in a church is correct. Marriages (between commoners) which took place in association with a church at all, were typically performed outside the church or in its entry area, rather than in the nave or sanctuary of the church, because they were seen as relating to base sexual/physical functions and not properly spiritual enough to be held inside the church. It’s important, for context, to remember that, for much of human history in *most* societies, “marriage” has consisted primarily of the actual sexual act of penetration, whether performed in private or before witnesses, along with the barter and exchange of goods between the participants families, and perhaps a celebration or feast in honor of the occasion. As such, it would have been a hard sell in ancient Christian society that it, or a symbolic representation of it, should take place inside of a church building, particularly in light of the negative associations from pagan sexual orgies and temple prostitution carried out in recent memory, and the church’s own preference for celibacy as a “higher” state than that of matrimony.
Yes, good point Wilfried. This is why I think the best policy is to completely separate government from marriage. Safer and happier for everyone. Better to have one marriage than two.
Of course, President Monson seems to feel prompted to encourage the status quo in the US, I assume more as a means of our citizens demonstrating to the Lord how they wish to use their agency, for better or for worse, and I support that while having ‘total separation’ as a backup policy that would be ideal for all parties.
Lorian, as others have noted, thanks for your contributions to the discussion. Weighing all aspects of an issue helps us to be fair and temperant in forming personal opinions.
To be clear, by the ‘better one marriage than two’ comment, I meant for Mormons marrying in the temple. I don’t trust future elected officials to regulate child-rearing and marriage contracts, so at this point I think it’s better to protect those from government than the alternative.
Kaimi Wenger writes, “This is completely wrong. [the judicial reasoning relies on equal protection]”
And I agree, the judicial reasoning is relying in equal protection, and what I said is not “completely wrong”.
I’ve listened to the Supreme Court’s oral arguments and their questioning is less about the definition of marriage and more about who can access marriage and why.
They are throwing out the family/husband/wife model. I have not heard a lot from the Supreme court about protect class or unchangable traits.
They’ve talked about sex (gender), age, fertility, children, but at the end of the day their reasoning is making it clear that some of them feel there is little sufficient reason to exclude from marriage on the basis of children/family.
You’re welcome to read things differently. Ten years ago, people thought Scalia was wrong for reading gay marriage into that case. Now here we are. Within 10-15 years from now we’ll be back again with plural marriage and you can be certain opinions from this case will be cited.
Lorian: I don’t disagree with this. It was the bit about animals that struck me as unfair. I have no particular brief for medieval Christianity’s conceptualization of marriage. I am skeptical that culture, society, law, and religion can be disentangled as easily as you suggest, especially for premodern societies. Was marriage under Roman law “religious”? Are Islamic or Jewish rules governing marriage religious? Was the pre-Trent canon law governing marriage religious? It seems to me that our modern idea of religion isn’t terribly useful for understanding a world suffused with taboo, the sacred, and the supernatural.
FWIW, I believe that even under current canon law some sacraments, such as baptism, can be performed by non-priests.
Brad, are you telling me that you disagree that divorce and cohabitation is on the rise?
Lorian, ultimately I only asked out of interest. I don’t think such data is dispositive anyway. There are a lot of adults raising kids in the US who are not considered “married” and no one seems particularly bothered that they are not given that status.
My point was that gay marriage is redefining marriage away from the older traditional restrictive paradigm that Nate was talking about in his OP. That doesn’t need to be a controversial statement. In fact, a great many liberal reformers of sexual relations see that as a very, very good thing.
Seth, one of the complicating factors in presenting “hard data on that,” is that much of the data we have and use for populational studies comes from census data collected every ten years. And up until the 2010 census, gay and lesbian people and our families were not considered important enough to be broken out from heterosexual couples and families in the data collection process.
Even with that data in hand, its important to remember that, with same-sex relationships still facing intense discrimination in many places, with 60% of states still permitting legal discrimination against gays in housing, employment and public accommodations, and with, frankly, the clear knowledge in many gay people’s minds that simply being gay was illegal in many states until after the turn of the 21st century, and that gay people have been imprisoned, tortured and confined in mental institutions against their will within our lifetimes in this country (as well as continuing to face the death penalty in other countries), many gays and lesbians remain tentative about the wisdom of revealing themselves too openly, particularly on government forms.
There was a widespread movement within the community in 2010 urging people to be as open and honest as possible, so that our existence could finally be acknowledged by the government and by those researchers who rely upon census data to determine important facts about our lives and interactions with the society at large. But there was still a great deal of fear, and I’d expect that census data will grow more reliable over the next few decades as more and more gay people feel safer from discrimination and are able to leave the closet entirely behind in both their personal and professional lives.
Saying, “Show me the data,” is kind of a Catch-22 for gay and lesbian people, because it is hard to collect data on a group of people who have faced such intense discrimination and hatred for so very long and who simply do not feel safe being open about themselves and their families. There is a growing body of research regarding same-sex couples and our children which has been in process for the past 40-50 years. Methodologies and cooperation from the community are improving, and the data support the fact that our families are healthy and quite typical as compared with those of the general population.
Nate #102 – I think we are mostly in agreement. However, I’d just like to answer two of your questions:
1. Marriage was not a religious institution in ancient Roman society, and,
2. Marriage was not a part of canon law at all prior to Trent. That was the specific change which took place at Trent – marriage was defined as a sacrament in canon law.
But yes, I would agree that religion’s relationship to marriage is largely irrelevant when it comes to civil marriage law in this society where church and state are supposed to be separated.
Nate, #103: Yes, that is true. But baptism has always been considered one of the “major” sacraments, not a minor one. Its place as a sacrament has never been in dispute, whereas marriage as a sacrament has been in dispute for centuries, and was not even proposed as such until around the time of the Council of Nicaea.
Seth #104 –
Seth, this is certainly true, but the difference here is that their parents, as a general rule, at least have the *option* to provide these protections and rights for their families if they are willing to make the commitments involved in doing so.
I’ve been reading through Lorian’s comments. Amen. I keep hearing the argument more and more from people against marriage equality, such as that which was implicitly made by a few brainwashed kids at the Utah State Capitol Rotunda recently (http://www.ldsmag.com/article/1/12433), that gay marriage can’t be because gays cannot conceive children the natural way. Garbage argument. Why don’t you just take it a step further and tell the rather large number of infertile heretosexual couples that their marriage is not as valid since they can’t have kids naturally?
Also for those saying that marriage should be left up to only the churches. 1) That’s impossible, as Wilfried pointed out, since the institution of marriage is not merely a religious ceremony but has civil and legal implications. But 2) if marriage could be just left up to the churches, then gay marriage would then be legal. Because then either existing churches that recognized the validity of gay marriage or newly created churches that did so could then marry gays, and we’d be forced to recognize it as valid, because, well, it was a church that carried out the marriage.
Well, that’s a fair enough point Lorian. The existing data I’ve seen so far is incomplete. As such, the existing data is probably highly susceptible to being compromised for ideological purposes on both sides of the debate.
Personally, I’m divided on what to do about this.
Part of me strongly feels that gay unions are fundamentally different and that trying to deny that they are will alter society in unexpected ways that I’m not pleased with. I feel this is very much something that impacts me and I’m very worried about the society my grandchildren will be forced to try and create families in.
Another part of me feels like the government monopoly on marriage licenses has overstayed its welcome and is no longer providing any protection to my beliefs about marriage, nor is it safeguarding the social context for my children. As such, I am quite agreeable to the idea of getting government out of the marriage license business – let everyone have neutral civil unions, and let people believe what they wish privately. I was probably the first on the bloggernacle as far as I’m aware to suggest this option:
I’m not sure what to do about this. I see a wholesale redefinition of first world society in favor of adult self-interest. I see gay marriage as a part of that.
I’ll acknowledge that the statements I’ve seen from Mormon and ex-Mormon gays (who honestly still count as “Mormon” in a cultural sense to me) are highly family-centric. Like yours.
However, I have not encountered a similar concern in my encounters in the corners of the secular Internet where I’ve been. The rhetoric in the remainder of the secular gay community that I’ve encountered has been largely indifferent to family responsibility and commitment. Some radical pro-gay marriage firebrands (who I do not take as representative of the majority) have even gone so far as to applaud gay marriage as the next necessary step in dismantling the anachronistic and barbaric institution of marriage entirely. They’ve openly talked about it being a sort of Trojan horse for getting rid of marriage altogether by socially defining it out of existence and making it irrelevant.
Those are the sentiments of several prominent gay theorists who, again, I do not take as representative of the entire gay community. But they do make me wonder where all this is going. Especially since the fringe ideologists have a way of becoming more and more mainstream when the spectrum shifts in their favor. And especially, especially in light of the social trends already dismantling and marginalizing marriage and family.
Then I have my encounters with the rest of the secular gay world where the rhetoric is relentlessly individualistic, and adult-focused. The only time I hear of discussion of children and family concerns in these venues, is when a conservative troll forces all of them to pay afterthought lip-service to concern for children. But I don’t witness such concern spontaneously.
Which honestly, just makes me think that Mormon gays are kind of odd within the wider gay community in possessing a deep religio-cultural concern for children and family that is frankly not shared by the wider gay community.
So there’s my experience and anecdotes.
Lorian: Under Roman law I think that the question is harder than your simple answer suggests. For example, marriage had ritual significance for some priestly offices, and there were two different kinds of marriage — marriage and marriage in manus — that had primarily ritual significance. Been a while since my Roman law class, but IIRC, certain kinds of flamens had to married in manus. Also, the words of the Roman marriage ceremony — Where you are Gaius, I am Gia — recapitulated the heavenly marriage of the gods. At the same time, Roman marriage was remarkably “secular” arrangements and divorce was very easy. It’s kinda hard to insist that it was one thing or the other.
Likewise, prior to Trent my understanding is that there was quite a bit of canon law on marriage. First there was the sacrament of marriage, even though it wasn’t a “major” sacrament. Second, there were lots of rules applied in church courts to things like property, inheritance, and the like which dealt with the legal incidents of marriage. My point is that looking at a medieval ecclesiastical court and asking if it is “religious” or “secular/cultural” is not really all that helpful.
(FWIW, one of the thing that I like about the Protestant Reformation was the way in which it upgraded the religious status of marriage, and downgraded the religious status of celibacy.)
Seth, I don’t know who you are talking to, but I’m very much tapped into the leadership within the movement, such as it is, and every source I read (HRC, Lambda Legal, Center for Lesbian Rights, Southern Poverty Law, etc.) are extremely cognizant of the needs of families like mine, and have used (very sincerely, I might add) the clear need for equality as a means of protecting families as the major justification around which all of the major recent court cases, as well as public discussions, have structured themselves. If you are reading the literature of radical lesbian feminist philosophers of the 1970’s, I’ll admit you might find some heavy traces of anarchy, rebellion against the patriarchy, and destruction of patriarchal structures wherever they may appear. :) All movements have their radical fringes… even Mormonism.
But no, the things you are saying here are not by any means representative of the LGBT community at large and its various arms of leadership in the cause of equal civil rights. I’d be interested in seeing your sources.
As for gay couples getting married bringing about the ruination of society for your grandchildren, you are in good (relatively speaking) company. This has been the biggest objection to all social change for centuries: abolition of slavery will change the face of society as we know it and destroy the world we wish to leave to our grandchildren; women’s suffrage will change the face of society as we know it and destroy the world we wish to leave to our grandchildren; equal rights for women will…ending of segregation will…desegregation of schools will…interracial marriage will…
Fortunately our all-too-human inclination to see only horror and misery and the downfall of society as we know it looming in our distant futures, our apocalyptic gene, so to speak, has not proven to be true in relation to these other social justice evolutions, nor will it prove to be true when some 2-4% of the population finally gains the right to equal civil marriage.
Well, I’m not going to allow a comparison to racism here.
In the case of racism – you are talking about a black man and a white man who are not different in any inherent way.
A homosexual union and a heterosexual union are indisputably biologically different.
You’d be on stronger ground with a comparison to gender equality.
And in opposing a popular social change, I’d also be in the company of those who opposed Nazi-ism and Soviet socialism. So I’m not likely to be swayed by the “history is on our side” arguments.
By the way, I think you are correct that gay marriage will not immediately and significantly change the way the majority of the readers on this blog view marriage – me included.
But we aren’t the margin either. It’s the impacts this has on the margins that will ultimately matter – same as with any fundamental social change in perception.
Which is why the “oh, I would never X Y and Z if A B and C” is a protest that is beside the point.
Also, just a nit-picky point that has nothing to do with my argument, but a lot of the gays I’ve talked to would heatedly dispute your figure of 2-4% – arguing that the percentage of gays in the population is much higher.
Seth, a couple of points. 1) How do you what the wider gay community is or what it wants? As Lorian pointed out in comment 91, nearly every gay couple she knows between 30 and 60 is raising children. So what if a gay person is individual-focused in their youth and then evolve to become more focused on community and the future of humanity. Aren’t many heterosexuals that way as well? Lots of heterosexuals engage in promiscuity in their younger years and then take on more responsibility later in life. (And then some don’t despite posing as moral conservatives i.e. Larry Craig, David Vitter, Mark Sanford, etc.)
2) You seem to be prone to this idea that gay relationships are less valid because they are so individualistic and “adult-focused.” Can you seriously say that you began dating your spouse without any individual interests in mind? Don’t all marriages need to have an element of “adult-focus” in them to keep them healthy and vibrant (perhaps to produce more offspring) and for the sake of the family? Strong relationships come before strong families.
Nate, the question of religion in relation to social institutions in Roman Law is further complicated by the fact that religion in Roman society, both in the Republic and, later, in the Empire, was not by any means the monolithic sort of religion which informs our thoughts on these questions today. While I agree that religion was heavily tied to social structure, as the Empire enforced a state religion in which the Emperor, himself, was one of the pantheon of gods, this blending of church and state is not particularly meaningful when attempting to determine whether marriage is a religious or social institution.
Since Roman religion, up until the time of Constantine, consisted of an absorption and blending of many or even most of the variety of gods and religions the Roman Republic and Empire encountered during their widespread conquests of the known world at the time, with Romans feeling a duty to pay *some* kind of homage to most any deity they observed other nations worshiping, and to continually incorporate new gods and goddesses (or their characteristics) into their existing gallery of deities, saying that religion had an influence in marriage customs is kind of like saying that religion had an influence on their dietary customs or their educational system. Of course it did. But not any religion to which most modern people would ascribe any authority. Egyptian gods and customs were as influential in Roman society as Greek gods and customs, which were about as influential as Roman gods and customs. None of that demonstrates that marriage was custom which was dictated by religious beliefs more than simply a social custom governed principally by civil needs and constraints (such as a patrician woman’s obligation to bear a set number of children before she could be legally permitted to be divorced and remain unmarried.
While I agree (and have already agreed) that the Roman Catholic Church had canon law which governed the terms for dissolution of marriage prior to Trent, marriage, itself, as a “sacrament” was not a provision of canon law prior to Trent, though it was held as a “custom” in many places under the provisions already stated (that it was a minor sacrament not governed by canon law — simply a matter of theological discussion and opinion). As such, the church was not the primary instigator, nor by any means the owner, of marriage as an institution. Its conditions and provision were governed by the individual cultures in which the couple lived, not by the church.
Oh yes, and this idea that your grandchildren’s futures are compromised because they may have to live in an environment in which gay marriage is legalized and widely accepted (God forbid, I can’t imagine anything worse) is once again an absolutely groundless reason to express concern about gay marriage. If anything it appears that legalizing gay marriage will lead to an increase in stable and happy marriage, not the opposite. You should feel relieved over your grandchildren’s futures then. I have to admire Lorian for coming on hear and dealing with ridiculous argument after ridiculous argument with such grace and poise. But I must say as an active Mormon myself, I feel more at liberty to ridicule the baseless fear and homophobia on these forums.
I think I made it clear enough that my experience was anecdotal Steve.
All adults are adult-focused to some degree. That doesn’t mean it’s sound social policy to institutionalize it.
My position is that the government interest in marriage is twofold – 1. to promote stable contracts of human commitment; and 2. to regulate an arrangement likely to easily produce vulnerable children who have a claim on government protection.
Gay marriage only meets the first of those interests, not the second. The existence of gay parents doesn’t change that calculation, and neither does the existence of childless heterosexuals. Neither of those exceptions changes the fundamental nature of the respective unions – as a class.
Of course, I think all of this may be a bit of a topic-change from Nate’s original post.
Lorain: I don’t think that we disagree about particulars only about how to interpret them. As I understand it you invoke Trent to demonstrate that the idea of marriage as a religious institution is of relatively recent vintage and that prior to that time it was a merely social or cultural custom. I take it that this historical narrative is offered as a rebuttal to traditionalists who assert some deep historical connection between religion and marriage.
If a religious origin is confined to a model in which priestly authority arrives on the scene and in the face of wholly disorganized behavior creates a set of religious rituals constituting a new social institution, entry into which is a priestly monopoly, then I think you are right. Marriage is not originally a “religious” institution. This strikes me as a rather narrow understanding of religion however. I look at premodern societies and marriage is constantly endowed with sacred significance. This sacred significance doesn’t get cashed out in the Tridentine language of priestly sacraments, but I think we are kidding ourselves if we refuse to acknowledge that marriage has been a locus for understanding the union of male and female and endowing it with sacred significance. If anything the medieval church’s relative lack of interest in marriage (and I say relative) is the religious outlier. Look earlier and one finds all sorts of stories about the sacred marriage of the gods — heaven and earth, Gaius and Gaia, Osaris and Isis, etc. — as a model of human marriage.
I don’t see my concerns as any more baseless than your support is Steve.
Nate’s #120 reminded me there is a third societal interest in marriage – the regulation of the natural imbalances between the sexes. Which is also obviously non-existent in homosexual unions. I’m not claiming Nate was supporting my point. His comment just reminded me of it.
Seth: What if we change your second purpose slightly and say, “The second purpose is to order the relationship of parents to children and to one another in a way that best serves the interests of children.” Note that this is a child-centric formulation but one that accommodates the widespread reality of gay parenthood.
Just a quick comment about income — I’ll write a general response to Nate’s essay later.
It’s anecdotal, but it’s my observation that out gay men from earlier generations were often upper-middle class. Some took that observation and inferred that gays were, as a class, more affluent (they’re more creative! they’re more determined! blah blah blah). The reality, I submit, was that their wealth gave them the security to live authentically. Not the other way around.
Today, because of those who went before, wealth is no longer necessary to feel secure in living authentically, so the shlub quotient is skyrocketing. Once equilibrium is reached, I’d expect gays and straights to easily run the same socio-economic gamuts.
That’s for Rosalynde, et al (up around #74).
Nate, it’s an interesting idea. I’m not exactly opposed to it at first glance.
But it’s also a bit more intrusive than I prefer government to be here. The point of my #2 was to point out the reality that heterosexual unions are likely to produce children, and those children are vulnerable members that demand some government regulation and care.
The word “likely” is highly important here.
The government – by necessity – deals in classes of people. For pragmatic reasons. Gay unions are not likely to naturally produce children. Not without expensive and involved procedures like surrogate wombs and such, or as incidental to previously existing heterosexual union. Or as a part of adoption – which is pretty complicated and involved in its own right.
As such, the government regulatory interest in homosexual unions is inherently less.
The goals that you are proposing are arguably what government should be doing. But does it follow that the government should use the marriage vehicle to do them?
Is there a single concern there that is not addressed adequately by civil unions? Or that couldn’t be addressed with a correctly drafted and administered civil union code?
Seth #114 & 115 –
Sorry, Seth, but its not up to you what comparisons I am or am not allowed to make. Racism is an excellent comparison, as race, sex, gender and sexual orientation are all innate characteristics which it is unjust to use as the basis for discrimination. The fact that sexual orientation is a variation defined more readily (at this point in time, anyway) in terms of how individuals relate to one another, rather than characteristics which are more readily identified in a single individual, does not mean that comparisons of discrimination based on innate characteristics is invalid.
The similarities between homosexuals and heterosexuals are not the prosaic matching and interlinking of genitalia upon which you seem to rely for your arguments, but rather, similarities in the relationships involved in the couples seeking marriage. This is where you and I disagree because, based upon my experience within the community of which I am a member, I believe the relationships, familial commitments and concerns of myself and my peers to be pretty much identical to those of the heterosexual community which surrounds us (for which I have a pretty reasonable understanding, as well, based upon my experience as an individual raised within a largely heterosexual community, by heterosexual parents and family members). You, based upon whatever experience you may have with the LGBT community (presumably as an outsider looking in, heavily swayed by prejudicial statements made for decades by your religious leaders) see gay people and our relationships as intrinsically alien to and separate from those of heterosexual people — based, apparently, in some obtuse rationality beyond any resemblance to that of “normal people.”
That would be because Kinsey stated the number as 10%, and a lot of people give quite a lot of credence to his research. Most realistic accepted scientific sources I’ve read in the past decade, though they don’t agree with one another, agree that Kinsey’s number was overstated. As do most of the gay people I’ve discussed this with who are educated on the topic.
As a general rule, religious conservatives tend to cite numbers that are between a fraction of a percent up to about 2% as being the likely percentage of gay people in society at large. Most reputable researchers, however, tend to come up with numbers that fall somewhere between 2-6%. Part of the variance depends upon what qualifies someone as “homosexual.” Since a certain percentage of the population is bisexual to one degree or another, with sexual orientation, like gender, actually falling upon a continuum, rather than being rigidly binary (as so many conservatives would prefer to believe it is) some researchers may calculate based upon whether study participants have *ever* had a relationship with someone of the same or opposite sex, or based upon the predominant form that their relationships have taken, or to what sex or gender they are primarily attracted, regardless of their past relationships. The criteria from which statistics have been derived are every bit as important as the statistics themselves (as is a clear overview of the population sample represented by the study).
Seth, what you’re doing is trying to come up with sound reasons for not allowing gay marriage to be legalized. What I’m saying is that you haven’t identified one valid reason yet. The notion that it is adult-focused isn’t a valid one, neither is notion that gays can’t naturally produce “vulnerable children,” whatever the crap that’s supposed to mean. What, are infertile people, or those who don’t plan on having children, not supposed to get married now? Your concerns about the potential negative impact of legalized gay marriage on society are not rooted in any sound logic or reason. By contrast my support for gay marriage is based on solid facts, reason, and a sense of justice. Some 4-5% of the human population is biologically gay. Being gay by itself is not linked to any sort of social or psychological disorder. Gay romantic relationships (consenting and of age) by themselves don’t appear to have any negative impact on society. But intolerance of gays and not accepting their relationships as equal with those of straights has a proven negative impact on the gays themselves. Your misgivings about gay marriage and lack of support are only doing a disservice to your grandchildren, especially if one or more of them turns out to be gay. And I don’t care if this is not in line with the OP, arguments against gay marriage need to be scrutinized and challenged.
Seth, your arguments proceed from an assumption that government’s interests in civil marriage proceed solely from a regulatory aspect — government’s right or desire to regulate who may or may not be married based solely upon procreative likelihood. I think this is the source of your error. Marriage laws are not solely about regulating who may or may not marry because of the likelihood that they can or will reproduce.
Government (as a representative of society at large) has a valid interest, also, in rewarding or supporting those relationships which society deems beneficial in some way to its interests of protecting individual rights and freedoms and buffering against fluctuations in economic prosperity, political stability and physical health. Societies form for the purpose of providing mutual aid and protection to better insure the survival of the society at large. Societies do this by rendering aid to those in need, providing laws governing safety and fair use of mutual resources, and adjudicating disputes in personal interactions.
Families function as sub-units within society at large. They serve as part of a basic social safety-net, caring for their own in times of need, illness or other trouble. As such, they serve an important role in helping society fulfill its interests in preserving the well-being of individuals as a function of preserving the well-being of the society.
This is why marriage vows typically contain the formula, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.” Note that marriage vows typically do not even mention the production of offspring. The marriage vows are primarily a commitment that two people make to one another to protect, support and defend one another in times of need, illness or other difficulty, being responsible for one another’s obligations and seeing to one another’s well-being, thus helping to relieve society of some of the burden of performing these functions. In a healthy society, families share the burden of looking after one another; thus it is in society’s best interests to support, nurture, reward and otherwise encourage the formation of these sorts of committed familial bonds. That’s why married couples are given particular tax breaks, such as inheritance tax deferment, some types of income tax credits, non-taxable benefits, etc., and why spouses are permitted to collect one another’s social security payments in cases where they are widowed.
Same-sex couples fulfill these familial roles and obligations in the exact same ways as do opposite-sex couples. Society’s interests in rewarding and encouraging these commitments is exactly the same. And these benefits to society exist whether or not the couple produces, adopts, or otherwise becomes responsible for the rearing of children.
Additionally, it is not the “likelihood” of a couple being able to produce children which determines whether it is in society’s best interests to recognize that couple’s commitments, but the fact that they *are* committing to be responsible for one another’s obligations, whether at some point in time that should include the rearing of one or more children or not. To say that same-sex couples should be excluded from societal institutions which are in part designed to help insure stable homes for children because the are “less likely” to have, adopt or raise children is to say that children who *are* produced, adopted or raised by such couples are less significant, less deserving of rights and protections than their peers who happen to be born to or raised by couples who were deemed “more likely to reproduce.”
Christian: I am particularly interested in your take on the essay. If you don’t want post in this particular mosh pit, please email it to me privately.
Lorian, I started out supporting gay marriage and was largely ignorant of statements from general authorities regarding the matter. As for my gut-reaction to gay sex as such – I didn’t have a negative reaction. No disgust or anything. My opposition was developed over time via exposure to the arguments the gay movement was making. Such as tenuous equating of homosexuality with race, and lazy attempts to dismiss the opposition as bigoted without really engaging the arguments. The more exposure I got to the gay marriage movement’s arguments, the less convinced I became.
Don’t make assumptions about where I’m coming from and I won’t do the same to you.
You give a list of things society should promote, and I agree they should be promoted. Where we disagree is that marriage should be the place to promote them. If you want to have commitment, and even childcare – there are ways to do that. But is marriage needed for it?
You make a description of marriage that pretty much illustrates my worry. A description that divorces the concept from children. Children are merely an optional side feature in your description of marriage rather than a central feature – with romance as a side feature. As far as government is concerned, our romances are just a side feature – not the defining characteristic.
By entering marriage you are entering a class of relationships likely to produce children and continue the society. Whether you are infertile, or wind up divorced, or what have you is of no consequence to that central reality. Exceptions do not define the rule – as you are attempting to do here.
I do not think that marriage should be primarily defined as adult commitment. That’s a secondary benefit.
And you completely did not address my central point that there is no difference between races in workplace and so forth, but there is a HUGE biological difference of KIND in the case of hetero and homosexual unions.
Seth, there are some concerns about data reliability (due to issues like some couples not wanting to answer) as well as the effects of anti-gay provisions in some jurisdictions. So, I think there will be some potential concerns with the data. However, I believe that (with those caveats) the latest census data indicates that about 20% of gay couples are raising children. This is about half of the rate of heterosexual couples.
For more stats, see
I believe the data also show that the adoption rate by gay couples is several times higher than the adoption rate by straight couples, but I don’t have those stats in front of me right now.
“In the case of racism – you are talking about a black man and a white man who are not different in any inherent way.
A homosexual union and a heterosexual union are indisputably biologically different.”
Seth, that may be a somewhat widespread perception in 2013. However, it’s also true that laws about race were quite often justified, at the time, based on statements of biological difference between members of racial groups.
Kaimi, I think the biological difference between a homosexual couple and a heterosexual couple is… pretty obvious. It’s not just some speculative or half-baked theory about blacks being less intelligent because the African sun had cooked their brains or something.
Thanks for the data sources.
Like I said, I think gay marriage advocates are much better off trying to draw a parallel with equal rights for women than they are trying to invoke the specter of racism.
Has anyone raised the issue that marriage isn’t an official right, and therefor can’t be violated? It would be refreshing if people actually proposed an amendment to the Constitution, no matter how they defined marriage. Even more refreshing would be an announcement that the government will no longer regulate marriage.
Seth #131 –
Ha! Seth, that’s kind of hilarious. This seems to be the new go-to argument for those who would dispute the validity of equal marriage with someone who presents too many rational arguments in favor of it. I’ve heard it several times now in various sources, and it usually goes something like, “Well! I was actually a strong supporter of gays getting married, but then I met some gay people/read something a gay person said somewhere/talked to you for a while and decided that their arguments/relationships just didn’t make any sense to me, and so now I don’t support gays getting married anymore. And it’s all your fault, so there!” It’s okay. I don’t need to know the personal reasons why you don’t think my kids should have the same rights and protections as your own. The fact is that my kids *are* no less deserving than your kids, assuming you have any, and *do* deserve for their parents to be able to provide them with the same rights and protections your kids enjoy. It really comes down to that. It doesn’t matter whether you believe I’m likely to procreate (I already did), or should have had the right to procreate (again, BTDT). My kids exist, and deserve to be treated the same by society as your kids.
Well, the fact is, you already have. You claim that gay people want marriage rights because we are selfish and adult-oriented. You claim that our arguments about the well-being of our children and families are untruthful. There are a lot of assumptions being made here, but I’d venture to say that most of them are not from me about you.
The things I listed have been specific roles filled by marriage throughout much of its history. Suggesting that civil marriage *continue* to fulfill those roles in society is hardly revolutionary.
You are in error in your presentation of marriage as being solely about the production of children. And I’ve already very clearly addressed the fact that many gay couples have and raise children, while many straight couples do not. Your continued assertions that marriage is about having children, but ONLY if the people having them are heterosexual, are really not furthering this conversation.
You cannot justify denying marriage to a couple on the basis of their lack of intent or ability to have or raise children, unless you do so for *all* couples who lack the intent or ability to have or raise children. Likewise, you cannot claim that the institution of marriage is principally about providing a structure which protects the production and raising of children, and then deny the protections of that structure to families who are producing and/or raising children because you consider them “less likely” to do so.
That’s kind of what the whole “equal protections” thing is all about. You simply cannot have it both ways.
And yet, the government disagrees with you, since they do not question the procreative abilities or intent of couples who apply for a civil marriage license. So whether you *think* that marriage should ever be defined as an adult commitment is really quite beside the point. It already is. The fact is that it is not an “either/or” proposition. Marriage is about many things and serves many functions in society. While it certainly *is* a means of trying to ensure that children can be raised in stable homes with committed, responsible parents, this is not its *sole* function. And while it certainly *is* a means by which couples who love one another can make lifetime commitments to each other which may or may *not* involve children at some point in the future, and can, by this vehicle, share their responsibilities, successes and burdens, this is not its *sole* function. And while it most certainly *is* a means by which society attempts to ensure that as we grow old, we have a companion to help us live into healthy, happy, and well-cared for old age, serving as a means of mutual support and encouragement to one another, seeing to one another’s medical, nutritional and economic well-being, this is not its sole function.
Seth, marriage is about families. Not just about families that look exactly like *your* family, but about ALL families. Parents with young kids, empty-nesters, grandparent couples, childless professionals, couples who like to keep dogs, couples who like to travel the world, families with 12 kids, families with one kid. They all count as families, and all deserve rights and protections in our society.
Actually, Seth, I completely *did*. Refer to the first half of my post #127. Thanks. ;)
Cameron #137 – Not all “rights” are defined in the constitution. Marriage as a civil right has been clearly set forth by a number of Supreme Court cases, including Loving v. Virginia.
Cameron, there are a lot of things that are not affirmative rights in their own regard, but which the state cannot distribute in a discriminatory way.
For instance, there is no right to as job as a schoolteacher. If the state decided that schoolteachers would no longer exist, well, that would be perfectly legal.
However, once the state says “we’re going to have schoolteachers,” they can’t then say “and no women are allowed.”
I’m confused about what the legal status of marriage actually does to help protect the rights of children.
Almost all of the rights of marriage go to the spouse directly rather than being direct benefits for children.
It seems indirect in the extreme to say, “we want to benefit children by marriage so we will grant a bunch of rights to spouses in the hopes that will trickle down to kids.”
I mean take a child in a household of unwed parents and sssume those parents get married. What additional rights or benefits go to the children based on that marriage? How do those rights compare to the change in rights for the parents?
On the other hand, assume a single parent gets married to someone other than the parent of the child. That new spouse gets rights that are often in conflict with the child’s rights. If marriage is set up to be good for kids, why aren’t marriage rights diluted for people who marry after having children. Where is the evidence that the point of these marital rights is to benefit children?
Further, if marital rights are to ensure long-standing relationships, where are the benefits and incentives to stay married? Other than social security’s spousal right vesting in 10 years, what other rights and benefits of marriage depend on the duration of marriage?
If one is really going to argue that the purpose of marriage is to help kids and promote long duration relationships, shouldn’t we find much more evidence of state-provided benefits that marginally increase based on more children or longer marriage?
It all seems like a very indirect method of accomplishing the presumed task.
Seth, for centuries it was widely viewed as scientific fact that Black people and white people were biologically different on a fundamental level, and in fact probably separate species or sub-species. (Check out the history some time, it’s fascinating.) These explanations held on in many places until just the last few centuries. It seems crazy in 2013, but that has been the widespread societal view for most of U.S. history.
Most of the rights and benefits of marriage accrue to the children in the form of stability and financial protections afforded the parents in times of hardship or tragedy.
For instance, if a heterosexual person dies, the spouse automatically inherits his/her estate, and if the estate is large enough to qualify for estate taxes, those taxes are deferred until the death of the surviving spouse. This often can mean the difference between the family being able to stay in the family home and maintain that stability and safety, vs. being forced to sell the home to pay the estate taxes. Gay couples, even those legally married in their home state, lack this right.
Additionally, a surviving spouse can be eligible to collect your social security benefits. If there are children still living at home, these benefits can mean the difference between getting by and being thrust into poverty. While the benefits are important for the surviving spouse, they are also important for any minor dependents, if the spouse qualifies. Gay couples, even those married legally in their home state, lack this right.
Children benefit from having a legal relationship to both parents. In many or most states, this legal relationship is derived automatically for children born to heterosexual couples, on the presumption that the child belongs to both of them unless there is a legal challenge made. If the mother names a father on the birth certificate, that man (even if not married to the mother) IS the legal father of the child unless he demands a paternity test and is proven to not be the father.
For gay couples, our legal relationships to our children are spotty, at best. Now in CA, if a same-sex couple is married and one of them has a child, it is legal to list the other spouse as the 2nd parent and there is an automatic presumption of parenthood, but this is a recent development. In many states children of same-sex couples cannot form a legal relationship to their spouse’s bio or adopted children at all, or if they can, it can take years of going through the process of adopting the child as a “step-parent,” despite the parenting having been a parent to the child since birth. And if no legal relationship is able to be formed, as is the case in some states, then if something happens to the biological parent (or the parent who was able to adopt as a “single” parent), the remaining parent, who may be the only parent the child has ever known, can lose custody of the child and be treated as a legal stranger.
Not being able to form a legal relationship to both of one’s parents can also mean that the parent who may be a sole wage earner for the family, if the SAHP is also the legal parent of the children, cannot claim the children on his/her tax return. S/he also may not be able to claim them as dependents on his/her insurance, and have to purchase an expensive private policy out of pocket. These types of economic discrimination can cause serious hardship to families with young children to care for.
Inheritance, custody, pensions and social security all are things which benefit the safety and stability of children in the face of unforeseen or uncertain circumstances. If the spouse is secure, the children have a better chance of being secure. Depriving gay couples and their children of these important rights and protections unduly disadvantages children of gay couples.
As Seth points out, one of the primary (though not the only) functions of marriage is to provide a stable, secure environment in which to raise children. Denying this right to some families based upon a religiously-based prejudice against the parents is grossly unfair to the children of these families.
Cameron 137, I have the right to marry anyone who is of age and who is of the opposite sex (or the same sex in some states) and who is consenting and present with me, provided that neither one of us is currently in a marriage. The state has no power to deny that marriage. It is a right.
Also all marriages are contractual, even marriages that aren’t written on paper (such as those among illiterate forest or desert tribal societies. Without the government who recognizes and enforces the marriage? People’s individual communities? If so, then the community serves as a de facto governing apparatus. Consider marriage rituals and traditions among tribes in the Amazon rain forest. Many of those tribes may be free from the Brazilian or Venezuelan governments’ authority, but the tribes themselves (via village elders or some other recognized community authority) become the government that enforces contracts. If no community authority recognizes or enforces a marriage contract, then marriage is nothing more than a non-binding ceremony. There is no marriage without government.
Lorian, I’m copying and saving your comments and going over them to enhance my own debate skills on this issue. You’ve provided a treasure trove of reason that trumps all of the anti-gay marriage arguments out there. Bravo.
Thank you, Steve. I’ve appreciated your thoughtful input, as well.
And please feel free to copy and repost anything of mine that you may find helpful.
A few additional thots:
* Some statements in this discussion are silly (or worse). For expl, Kaimi (#60) asserted that, “Jesus had two Dads, and He seemed to turn out just fine.” Of course, Jesus did not have two dads in the sense discussed herein. The parents who raised Jesus in this world were a female mother and a male father. To imply that he had a pair of homosexual “dads” is either disingenuous or a sorry joke.
* Lorian somehow manages to transform my comment into a personal “nauseating” attack on his two daughters. Surely he knows better, so give us a break. As one who claims familiarity with social science, he should understand “on average” and other statistical generalizations as well as not torture someone’s words into a false caricature, thereby engaging essentially in ad hominem. In other posts he likewise attributes meanings or conclusions to me that are gross distortions.
* As for marriage being traditionally a religious matter (I did not say “institution”), I point to the overwhelming majority of societies (from tribal to large and complex) in history treating the marriage relationship between man and woman as sacred. Lorian seems often to confuse church with religion (beliefs about the sacred) and religion mostly with Christianity. Religion goes back to the beginning of human history. Almost all known small societies have a form of religion as the central organizing principle for understanding the world and guiding behavior (including agricultural as well as parental). And most larger societies did (until quite recently). It is secular states that have separated religion out. In the case of Rome — it was a large empire with many peoples/cultures and religions, so a single pattern does not hold. For expl, Jews under Roman rule certainly treated marriage as a sacred religious thing (with religious rituals), as did most other subjugated peoples. For the Roman ruling class it was a mixed bag, and varied over time.
* As for research on child-rearing effectiveness of different kinds of families, two things can be said: (a) the claim that all the research shows homosexual parents to be equally effective as heterosexual parents is simply false. The research findings are mixed. More importantly, (b) methodological problems abound, so strong conclusions are not warranted from much of it.
* Why are conclusions from the Kinsey Report not considered reliable? Because of the population studied which was not at all representative of the general population (as well as various methodological failings). The “best” existing research on rate of homosexuals across many societies come from some studies done by NSF and its European equivalent; they put the range at about 3% to 5%.
Allen Lambert –
a) Clearly you don’t know Kaimi and you don’t “get” his sense of humor. Lighten up, dude.
b) First, I am not a “he.” Second, your statements were offensively arrogant, to put it mildly, no matter how much you wish to believe they were not. But I’m willing to forgive and allow you another chance.
c) Even if we allow for the sake of argument that the basis for marriage in many (or even most) society(ies) is to be found in the religious beliefs of that society, how could that possibly have any bearing upon whether or not same-sex couples should have equal access to civil marriage in our own society? There are many religions which teach equality for same-sex couples, both among a number of Christian denominations, and also among some ancient societies, including quite a few Native American tribes. But no one’s religion is (or is supposed to be) allowed to dictate who may or may not have equal treatment under the law in our country.
The issue of religion with regards to civil marriage is under discussion solely based upon the claims of some folks that marriage is a “religious institution” which should fall within the sole purview of the church. Clearly this is not the case, since even you admit that there have been any number of societies which have held many different views of marriage, sometimes based upon their many and varied religious beliefs, so that there really cannot be reasonably said to be one single religion or society which can claim “ownership” of marriage, one single societal or religious view or governance of marriage which should be made to apply to all citizens of the United States of America.
d) You may choose to believe this if you like, but the only studies which seriously question the equal effectiveness of same-sex parents with opposite-sex are those which disingenuously compare single parents to two-parent households, or children of divorce in same-sex step-parent situations to children in intact heterosexual homes. Sorry, but comparing apples to oranges doesn’t constitute valid scientific methodology.
e) I didn’t hear anyone claim that Kinsey’s numbers *were* reliable. I, myself, in fact, pointed out that they probably were quite inflated and that the correct number probably lay somewhere between 2-6%. If you prefer 3-5% and consider it worth arguing for, you’ll have to argue with someone else, because you’re pretty much already agreeing with me on this one.
Lorian, I agree that the studies are inconclusive and that they compared children in single parent households to children in two-parent households.
But here’s the rub.
Single-parenthood is part and parcel of the homosexual parenting scheme.
How many homosexual parents would there be if you removed those who divorced and took the kids with them? Simply entering into a new committed relationship with a homosexual partner does not eliminate the same performance problems that tend to afflict children of divorce.
Single parenthood IS gay parenting in large measure. The two are not easy to separate.
And I didn’t make assumptions about you Lorian. At no point in this discussion have I attacked you personally – only your views and your arguments. You and Steve are the ones trying to personalize this (Steve more than you I’ll admit).
Your arguments fail in a key respect – they assume that government marriage laws are primarily about regulating individuals. Therefore if the government allows childless marriages, government interest in marriage must not be about children primarily.
But the government regulation is not about regulating individuals. It is about regulating and maintaining a CLASS of relationships. Marriage as a CLASS of relationships is about children, and can include the childless as an incidental matter. The exceptions do not define the rule here. The existence of childless individuals does not change the definition of marriage as being primarily about children and only secondarily about adult relationships.
Therefore, this argument of yours is simply never going to be convincing – except to people who already agree with you – like Steve. Marriage isn’t about individual relationships. It’s about social bonds that underpin the future of society. A future that homosexuals are not well placed to enact. This is not a religious argument, it’s purely a biological argument and a societal argument.
As for this quote:
“Ha! Seth, that’s kind of hilarious. This seems to be the new go-to argument for those who would dispute the validity of equal marriage with someone who presents too many rational arguments in favor of it. I’ve heard it several times now in various sources, and it usually goes something like, “Well! I was actually a strong supporter of gays getting married, but then I met some gay people/read something a gay person said somewhere/talked to you for a while and decided that their arguments/relationships just didn’t make any sense to me, and so now I don’t support gays getting married anymore. And it’s all your fault, so there!” It’s okay.”
A general observation is that playing the contempt card is usually a sign of weakness in one’s argument. When an argument has reached it’s limits, the temptation to rely on the crutch of ridicule and contempt grows stronger.
Your children have the same rights any other children have regardless of whether gay marriage passes. However, to de-personalize this, let’s take a hypothetical. A father realizes he’s gay and divorces his wife and takes custody of his son. Then he lives with a gay partner.
The son had as much right to a two-parent home as any boy in the country. It was taken away from him by the divorce. The son’s rights didn’t matter enough then. I don’t see why they matter more now.
To put it another way.
If marriage is no longer about children, there is no point whatsoever even having a government-administered “marriage” at all. If government exists primarily for the service of individual adult self-interest, marriage is hardly needed.
If marriage is mainly about protecting children why do traditional wedding vows not mention children?
Lorian listed ways children are benefitted but they still seem secondary to the rights of the spouse.
Nate mentions it obliquely but I think the history of marriage is way more tied up in property rights (even women as property in some cases) than either side of this discussion want to admit.
The distinction of legitimate and illegitimate children was not put there for the sake of children in general but for the property rights of certain children versus others.
I think the history of marriage here is way too generous in assuming an historical respect for children. How does one square child labor, infanticide, treatment of orphans,etc. with the notion that marriage was crafted to protect children? Its anachronistic.
Seth R. its a government of the adults, by the adults and for the adults.
Of course children aren’t mentioned.
Because until now – they didn’t have to be. It was an assumption.
No one in days past could have ever dreamed that human society would evolve to the point of indifference about its own future.
Yes, marriage was about property.
Property that would be PASSED ON to children. The entire idea of property has children implicit in its conception. Everyone back then thought it was obvious. It is only in the last 30 or 40 years that we’ve decided to make the unthinkable a possibility.
Lorian, I am curious. Do you support legalization of polygamous unions (or at least their decriminalization)? I am not trying to get us into a slippery slope or parade of horribles argument. I genuinely want to know your position.
“if the government allows childless marriages”
Seth, the government already allows for childless marriages. It imposes no penalty on those who marry but choose not to have children.
Seth, most of your gripes about marriage seem to be social trends that the government currently has no power to reverse. But you haven’t presented any convincing argument that legalizing gay marriage is going to make those trends worse. In fact, that many governments have evolved to protect individual choices in relation to marriage is a largely positive thing. Can you imagine living in a society in which you were forced by the village elders (who acted as a form of government) and your immediate family into an arranged marriage and were punished for not accepting it? What about a society in which you were ostracized or punished for being barren or sterile? Yes marriage has been made an individual choice, but for the better. I don’t know, you keep saying how marriage is all about children. Perhaps you would find yourself more at home in rural Niger among the Hausa where it is the norm for 20 year-old males to marry 15 year-old girls and where the average number of children per female is seven. The government there is too weak to protect individuals against oppressive community standards. Individual communities serve as the governing mechanisms of society there and there is little recourse for individuals who do not want to abide by them.
Also, a child doesn’t have a “right” to a two-parent home. There is no law against single-parent homes. You are making absolutely no sense at this point. Probably time to throw in the towel, Seth.
“No one in days past could have ever dreamed that human society would evolve to the point of indifference about its own future.”
And what does this have to do with legalizing gay marriage and how it is going to cause harm?
Having read through the first 50 or so comments, there is a few points I feel need to be made.
Fifty plus years ago when inter-racial couples were looking to be securely married, it was easy to dismiss at that time any reason to allow that right. I know, I was there. When one is on the outside trying with all their heart to be part of the blessed ones, we tend to ignore, marginalize, and discount their feelings. Even within the Mormon church leadership at that time there were severe criticisms and scriptural reasonings used against those wanting to be inter-racially married. That prejudice over time has gone away and we would now stand up for inter-racial couples and their right for marriage. Today, I feel this marginalization is again the case for the majority think about gays.
There have been a number of comments about the negatives of socially experimenting with marriage. That drew a number of chuckles from me given the likelihood those were coming from Mormons. The Mormon church has been on the forefront of marriage experimentation for years. Need I mention polygamy. Then again, we need to remember the church counsel from the early 60’s to nearly 2000. Gay men were clearly counseled to marry women as a means to make the gay go away. That has probably been one of the most abysmal social experiments conducted by the church in it’s nearly 200 years of existence. I have heard suggestions of nearly 90% divorce rates for the inter-orientation marriages. Now that counsel has been rescinded, however, the damage is done for 10’s of thousands of people.
Gay marriage will happen because it is the right thing to do. There is little surprise on my part that many of the arguments against gays being married were the same used against inter-racial marriages. In time what we repeat in the Pledge of Allegiance…’with liberty and justice for all” will ring true.
Gay marriage will happen because it is the right thing to do…’with liberty and justice for all” will ring true. That has a nice *ring* to it. I agree it will happen and for that reason.
There are all kinds of property rights that don’t involve children. Life only interests, estate taxes, etc.
There is an enormous difference in saying marriage exists to protect the right of a female in a marriage because she undergoes certain risks in having children that need to be compensated and saying marriage exists for protecting the children.
How does primogeniture help children? It helps some children more than other children. Maybe marriage is under attack because more people want to protect all children rather than just children of married people.
How do you propose Lorian’s children be protected? Make them unexist or discourage their existing by not granting marital rights to their mothers desired companion? Would you ban lesbian’s from childbearing?
There is no need to worry about the children of the childless – there are none. Furthermore, evolution will take care of any arrangements that significantly lower life chances for children. Why the big worry – its just that much more cheap real estate for those that have more than the replacement number of children? Abortion, childlessness, small families aren’t these the long-run friend of the big family team?
There is another evolutionary aspect to this that I haven’t heard mentioned. From a biological point of view, lesbian marriage is often polygamy without the male being a party to the marriage.
Lesbians often get sperm from high status males who are procreating with multiple women. Anyone who has seen a fertility clinic catalog knows what I’m talking about: tall, intelligent, healthy. No one wants sperm from a short, fat dolt.
So, from an evolutionary point of view, sperm donor males are getting a leg up on males that have to support children in their own marriages or relationships.
I would be interested to see the support for lesbian marriage from sperm donors and non-sperm donors. I think some of this rhetoric is not really that the children will be harmed but that the children will do all too well and out-compete the children of traditional marriage.
No more so than it is “part” of the heterosexual “parenting scheme.” Do you honestly believe that there are more gay people functioning as single parents, or raising their children in stepparent homes than there are straight people? And yet, you wish to punish the gay people and their children (ALL of us, including those of us who are *not* divorced, not stepparenting, not living as single parents) because there are gay single parents and stepparents, just like there are straight ones? Whom the law does not punish by withholding future marriages, by the way?
You keep coming up with these arguments which you seem to feel are proper justification for treating same-sex couples as second-class families, and yet you ignore the fact that the law already is fully accommodating (whether you believe it ought to be or not) to straight couples in these selfsame situations. Again, Equal Protection means you can’t have it both ways.
You are looking to delineate ways in which gay people are different from straight people and can therefore be (at least in your belief system) legally discriminated against. But the things you keep bringing up (infertility, intentional childlessness, having children through adoption or ART, having children as a result of prior marriages and divorce, having children as a result of becoming a stepparent) are far more common, numerically speaking, to heterosexual parents and households, who face no legal discrimination or withholding of civil marriage because of them.
Actually, every time you have made a statement indicating that same-sex couples and their children are less-deserving of civil rights and protections, inferior as a class to their heterosexual and heterosexually-parented counterparts, you have attacked me, my wife and our family, Seth. That’s what you don’t seem to get, here. You have no skin in this game, so you can afford to be as blithe and dismissive as you want. No matter what the outcome, you lose nothing (except, perhaps, the ability to continue to feel completely justified in your attitude that gays deserve to be discriminated against, and that your prejudices are righteous — but I fully expect you will continue to believe this is so, and I can live with that).
I never anywhere claimed or suggested that government’s interest in civil marriage was about regulating individuals. It is purely and completely about class discrimination.
We are members of a class — committed, loving couples who have made lifetime agreements to stay together, care for one another, and, in many cases (such as my own) to bring up children together, however it may happen that we have those children. Even though in all these respects we are exactly like every other civilly-married couple, we are denied the civil rights and protections which have been attached to civil marriage for the express purpose of protecting and supporting families (no matter whether those families have, intend to have in the future, or will never include, children).
Marriage is *not* a class established to have children. There is, as we’ve repeatedly established, no requirement that straight couples be able to or even want to have children in order to get married. This line of argument is a heaping pile of baloney, because no such expectation or requirement exists. If you can show me even one state in this country where marriage law states an expectation or requirement to have children as a condition of being permitted to marry, I’ll concede that you are right that marriage is primarily about who can or will be most likely to have children.
But when you continue to sit and argue with me, a *parent* of two children, and claim that my family does not meet the requirements for being civilly married because my wife and I are infertile and were “unlikely” to have children, and claim that this somehow justifies punishing my children by the continued withholding of the rights and protections that children of heterosexuals enjoy as their birthright — sorry, Seth, but your argument simply has no legs.
Marriage IS about individual relationships. One does not make marriage vows to one’s inlaws, or to one’s grandparents. One makes vows to one’s future spouse (which, by the way, do not typically include a vow to be fertile and bear/cause pregnancies). Marriage is also about society, and society’s investment in supporting these couples and any children they may bear or adopt. You still have not shown any way in which families with two same-sex spouses are in any significant way different from families with two opposite-sex spouses in terms of their relationship to society. You simply cannot distinguish between classes of couples based upon reproductive capability and deny a right to one class which you do not withhold from the other class — particularly when there are significant numbers of couples in *both* classes who do not reproduce, and significant numbers in both classes who *do* reproduce. You have failed to find a clear distinction between the classes which would justify the denial of a civil right, even *assuming* that civil marriage in this country was granted on the basis of reproductive capability, which it is not.
Sorry you felt I was being contemptuous of you, Seth. Your argument, however, that you supported equal marriage until you had to interact with people like me and then you apparently found those interactions so odious as to convince you that gay couples and our children are inferior to straight couples and their children — well, I’ve heard that before, and it’s pretty contemptuous all by itself. What you say about contempt being the sign of a weak argument seems to apply here. The difference is, Seth, I have no contempt for your (presumed) marriage or family, as you clearly do for mine. My contempt, if it is to be so described, is for *arguments* such as yours which attempt to justify discrimination against my family, my children. Sorry if that is painful to you. Your contempt is for my wife and children and the life we have made together. For some reason, the configuration of my wife’s and my genitalia is more important to you than the very real existence of our family, and the ways in which that family looks pretty much like everyone else’s family and deserves the same rights and protections.
No matter how many times you say this, it won’t become true. There are over 1000 rights and protections granted at the federal level alone, plus hundreds at the state level which are denied to families like mine. While my family was one of the 18,000 more fortunate families to be “grandfathered in” after the passage of Prop 8, so that we still retain our state-level civil marriage, the majority of same-sex couples are not so fortunate. And even for us, the state-level marriage laws which protect our family do not include *any* of those 1000+ federal level rights and protections. Plus the fact that any time we get in the car or on an airplane and cross over state lines into our neighboring states, we are instantly reduced to being legal strangers to one another. When we go on vacation, we are suddenly no longer married. If my wife got another job out-of-state (unless we were lucky enough that it was in one of the handful of states which would recognize our marriage) our marriage would be instantly non-existent, at least for the purposes of protecting our family. Of course, if for some reason we decided to divorce, we *also* would not be able to do so in the new state, since they don’t recognize our marriage. We would have to move back to California and jump through whatever hoops are established for non-residents who seek divorce in this state (some couples have had to move back to their home state and live there for months or a year in order to obtain a legal divorce before moving back to the state where they had established themselves). Thankfully, I doubt my wife and I would ever be in that position, but it is yet another way in which gay couples and their children’s lives are made even harder by the lack of equal marriage rights in this country. Divorce is traumatic enough for families and children in particular, without forcing them to move and reside in a different state for a year in order to have their needs seen to by a family court.
If gay people were the only ones who ever created children with an opposite-sex spouse, then divorced and found a new spouse or partner and dragged their children into stepparent situations, your argument would, perhaps, make a modicum of sense. Since this scenario happens by the thousands every day among heterosexuals, however, it still doesn’t work as a justification for denying same-sex couples equal marriage.
In fact, what it *does* do is to bolster the idea that our society needs to *stop* the discrimination against GLBT people which helps to keep them in the closet, and which helps to set *up* such situations in which gay and lesbian people are encouraged or feel required (or safer) to enter into mixed-orientation marriages with opposite-sex spouses, and then later realize how utterly incompatible they are — after producing one or more children together. It is this attitude like your own, suggesting the superiority of heterosexual marriages, which continues to force gay young people to stay closeted, to attempt “heterosexual” marriages which are unfair to them, to their spouse and to any children they may produce.
What needs to happen is that we need, as a society, to accept the fact that gay people exist, that relationships between same-sex couples are deserving of rights, that gay people deserve to be treated with equality, dignity and respect. We need to make sure that gay kids in schools are safe and well-treated, that they realize that they have the option in this society to be out and to find appropriate spouses, that they will not face discrimination for being who they are. Then, and only then, will gay people stop attempting to form marriages with opposite-sex spouses which can never work in the long term, and which produce the kind of heartbreak you describe in your scenario, for all concerned, and most particularly for children born in these situations. It is criminal that there are still some LDS leaders out there who (in spite of supposed changes made in official policy) continue to encourage young gay people (men in particular) to make themselves a part of such sham marriages and continue to inflict this sort of harm on so many people.
That said, you are still attempting to punish an entire class of people for what you represent as being wrongs specific to them, but which are not, in fact, by any means universal to the group “all gay people with children,” and which *are*, in fact, extremely common in the group, “heterosexuals with children,” and are not used as a means of denying civil marriage to heterosexuals. Sorry, but this still does not work for you.
My family, for instance, was created by my wife and I. We conceived and had and have raised our children together from the get-go. My wife and I have been married for 22 years, and for the past 11, almost 12, have been raising our twin daughters. And yet you feel that the fact that some other gay couple got together after having been divorced from heterosexual marriages and are now attempting to parent step-children together justifies discrimination against my family… how? When similar situations in heterosexual families don’t justify discrimination against other heterosexual couples?
Seth you’ve pointed out another way I’ve been naive. Isn’t part of the decline in marriage the improvement in the state enforcing paternity obligations? In other words for women who entered marriage as a way to ensure support for their children, paternity child support laws mean that you don’t really need to stay married to get that support.
This has opened up opportunity for women to pursue genetic diversity of their offspring without decreasing financial support for the children of other males. Sure there are benefits to the presence of the male for longer but in the current environment do they really offset what you give up in less genetic diversity?
Since almost no one in America doesn’t get enough food to reproduce and bring their children to adulthood, wouldn’t evolution promote women seeking more genetic diversity.
Its the 21st century people, we know how biology works.
Mtnmarty, marriage vows don’t mention children because couples getting married do not vow to *have* children. That doesn’t mean, however, that civil marriage does *not* provide protections and rights for children. As you point out, the distinction, fading though it is, between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” children is *precisely* about marriage providing for the well-being of children. I agree with Seth that marriage *does* provide for the well-being of children being raised within the marriage. It truly *is* PART of the point (but not the *whole* point, since, as you point out, there is no obligation that married couples produce children in order to become or remain married).
It’s funny — you and Seth are both making my points for me so very well in your arguments with each other. ;)
As to your repeated claims that benefits and protections provided by marriage are only given to spouses, not to children, you’ve negated that point yourself in your comments about inheritance and property rights, and legitimate vs. illegitimate children.
The fact is that anything which protects or supports the primarily relationship in the family — that of the spouses to one another, is a protection for the children brought into the family. The health and safety of the family depends mostly upon the health and safety of the parents, who then are obligated by law (and by love, hopefully), to see to the well-being, safety and care of their young, if any young exist. No, marriage is not just “about the children,” as Seth claims; nor is it just “about the adults” as you seem to claim at some points in your discussion. It is about the relationships between the adults, themselves, their relationship to the society in which they live, *and* their relationships to any children they may produce or adopt.
“a) Clearly you don’t know Kaimi and you don’t “get” his sense of humor. Lighten up, dude.”
I have known Kaimi for many years, and I still don’t get his sense of humor.
correlated #156 – I have no real desire to follow you down the polygamy bunny trail at this moment, but I’ll give you my (as brief as possible) standard answer to this question which I have encountered over and over in every. single. equal marriage discussion I’ve ever had, particularly with LDS folks.
No, equal marriage for gays does not imply equal marriage for polygamous marriages. There are significant differences in family structure which legalization would require an overhaul of the family law code in all the states in order to accommodate: things like inheritance, child custody and social security are modeled upon the assumption of two parents and their children. Polygamous marriages can be significantly more complicated in terms of interdependencies, relationships between adults and children, economic provisions for the family. Current family law applies readily to same-sex couples with two adults with or without children. Therefore, marriage equality for same-sex couples requires no significant changes to current law.
That said, I don’t believe that polygamous marriages should be illegal at the most basic level. There is nothing that I can see which should cause them to face a level of discrimination beyond that of other types of marriage. I think there are some serious potential issues which are either inherent to the widespread practice of polygamy or which seem to accompany the practice (particularly polygyny) in most places where it occurs. These include the tendency to involve the coercion and exploitation of underage women (the need for a continuous supply of women to meet the needs of marriageable men leads to situations in which women are encouraged to marry at younger and younger ages, both to – temporarily – increase supply and in order to prevent women from reaching a level of maturity where they might decide polygamy was not to their taste and would then refuse to participate. Depriving women of adequate education and exposure to the non-polygamous world also helps to further this process).
Another significant issue over time is an exponential increase in the number of marriage-age young men who cannot find wives within the community, and tend therefore to be pushed out of their families and towns because unmarried young men are both a threat to the supply of young women for the older, higher-status men in the community, and a threat to the safety of the community (since unmarried young men tend as a rule to be greater risk-takers and to engage in significantly more violent behavior than their married peers).
But in situations where all participants in the marriage are fully-informed, educated, consenting adults, I really have no problem with the polygamous family unit. In a non-exploitative, well-functioning family, I think there can be some real advantages for the children involved, including the continual presence of loving adult parent-figures available to give them attention and meet their needs. Childcare tends not to be an issue for these families, and, while additional family members mean additional expenses, if the family’s incomes are pooled and several of the adults are working professionals, the family standard of living can be quite high.
This is not the case, by any means, in all polygamous families and communities. Traditionally, many polygamous wives have been kept in separate households and have relied mainly or solely upon public assistance for the support of their families, being viewed by the government as “single parents.” This creates a drain upon the community and society as a whole, and is a good argument *against* legal polygamy.
None of that, however, has any real bearing upon whether same-sex couples and their children deserve to be treated equally under the law as compared with opposite-sex couples.
Nate Oman #166 — Touche. ;)
I’m not saying there are no protections for children from marriage, I just think both in historical and political terms “protecting children” as a global good as we now conceive it is not causal.
I just don’t see that much connection of history with what we are dealing with today. The past really is a foreign country with respect to relations between the sexes and between parents and children.
The real heart of Nate’s essay is where he says roughly “We ought to prefer two people married for life with children as the ideal.”
I think that ideal is a foreign country and trying to shoehorn our new country into that shape causes more harm than good. In my usual way of exaggerating I’d say Nate is a duration bigot. People who desire marriage to last only so long as it is meeting the needs of the spouses would take exception to Nate’s preferring longer duration marriages as an ideal.
This is why I’m trying to separate the obligation of parents to children from parents to each other. Anything less is hopelessly unrealistic in a way, that leads to trouble for those of us who care about some of the same things as Nate.
Take the chastity/promiscuity issue. Do we really want to say that one sexual partner for life is the ideal? Do we really want to try to convince people that we need one sexual partner for life in a marriage for the sake of the children and that gay marriage may work against that goal? It just doesn’t seem relevant to today’s world and if he wants to take on today’s world he should go after the sexual revolution as a whole and not pick a fight with the gays.
My main question for you is on the issue of allowing men to renounce their parental obligation for their sperm. You don’t talk a lot about the biological fathers of your children ( you may have, you write even longer posts than me, so I’ve skimmed some of them).
How would you argue against people who think that for the sake of the children only men and women who will parent the children for life should procreate? I’m not talking on a rights basis compared to other unmarried people, I’m talking about in Nate’s world of ideals. How do you know that children of same-sex parents are not missing something valuable, potentially something valuable enough that a person would choose not to have children.
Is your opinion that people are significantly enough the same across gender that it doesn’t matter, or that women are better parents than men so 2 women beat a man and a woman as parents or that a man and woman may be an ideal but we should desire lesbians to have children anyway because there is no significant harm or do you have some other opinion on it?
Thanks, Lorian. I appreciate your answer. I think how you feel about polygamy is how some feel about gay marriage. Not particularly against it but don’t see the real need for it either. If God loves your children as much as he does the children of heterosexuals, and He certainly does, then he must also love the children of polygamists equally, and He certainly does. I would have thought you would have come out a little stronger in favor of removing the constant fear of criminal prosecution from the families of those innocent children. But you have a particular agenda, and Kody Brown and Jonathan Turley have a different one. As an aside – and I really don’t want this to turn into a polygamy conversation; I just wanted to know your take – but most (not all) of the characteristics you attribute to polygamous families stem from the state-mandated secrecy for practicing polygamists. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Nate’s quote is actually “We ought to regard marriages with children as more fully realized and more socially valuable than childless marriages.”
“Ought” and “socially valuable” are pretty highly charged words.
The same objections don’t apply to polygamy because it’s heterosexual. I have a different set of concerns about polygamy being legalized that don’t really overlap with gay marriage.
Lorian, I fail to see any benefits being denied to gay parents that absolutely require marriage to be obtained. If you don’t like the state of hospital visitation, change the laws about hospital visitation.
What does that have to do with marriage?
Also, you seem to be laboring under a misunderstanding here.
I don’t approve of heterosexual divorce either in the majority of cases that involve children. If you’re married, and you have children, and there isn’t abuse or serious quantifiable neglect, you don’t divorce as far as I’m concerned. And I don’t care how “out of love” the people involved feel.
Mtnmarty: You are free to ignore, disagree with, or mischaracterize my arguments to your hearts content in the comments, but calling me a bigot violates the T&S comments policies. This is not an open forum. We have rules for polite interaction and reserve the right to kick boors out of the cocktail party. You have been warned.
I once suggested that people should be able to cast the vote of their children and furthermore people should really have a vote weight much more consistent with their remaining life expectancy. Both of those seem very loosely correlated with Nate’s quote. Certainly people with children would have more sway.
I didn’t get any takers and I don’t think Nate is going to successfully run for president on his statement either.
Duly noted is “Duration supporter” legit?
There’s nothing contemptible about treating something that is demonstrably different differently.
As for equality and fairness.
Comprehensive civil unions.
Problem solved. I haven’t heard a single thing the pro-gay marriage side has asked for that cannot be met with civil unions.
The only real objection is to draw spurious comparisons to segregation.
Which doesn’t work because segregation wasn’t based on actual differences. This is.
I didn’t think it violated it because I didn’t think “duration bigot” was insulting or a personal criticism. I’ll do my best to be more careful.
Lorian, further to marty’s point, and this may be too personal for you to address, and I understand if you’d rather forbear, but do you know who the biological father of your children is? Does he have any role in your daughters’ lives? Do you think he should or would you want him to? Will you encourage your daughters to seek out their father when they are of age, to learn of his history and life so that they might better understand the sum total of their existence? Do you have concerns about the proliferation of sperm donation and the increased possibility, with many stories of donors fathering hundreds of children with multiple women, of unintended incest occurring in succeeding generations? I realize that the latter issue is remote, but surely you identify all of these points as ethical considerations. And there are hundreds more.
I know, I know. These issues are not unique to the topic of gay marriage and not dispositive. But I would still like your thoughts on these points if you are willing to share.
Lorian, I think you are a strong and compelling advocate for your position. I agree with Steve Smith on this point. I wonder, though, could anything change your mind on the conclusions you have reached on this issue? In other words, are you even open to the possibility that you could be wrong about gay marriage in a way that would have you retreat from fully supporting it regardless of consequence?
I think the paradigms of individual rights and freedom, as opposed to the paradigms of community responsibility and institutional care are so set in people’s minds that it’s hard to convince either side to change their perspective.
Nate O. I actually read the comment policy prior to commenting on this thread because I know my “offensive” and “potty humor” meters are unreliable and I needed guidance. Even boors occasionally inadvertently offend.
As a suspected boor, I realize I face an uphill battle in getting you to respond but I am enough interested in the following questions to risk rejection and direct it towards you.
I strongly think that your marriage premises drive your essay. You are arguing from the first principles rather than to them. I also think that there is a tension right off the bat between them and the very same political reality that leads to support for gay marriage. To me, there is an important and inherent conflict between your premises for marriage and the notion of sexual liberty as fundamental to identity.
So, am I misunderstanding you in thinking that you find your ideal state of marriage in conflict with the political values of the sexual revolution?
Are you against or ambivalent about the reasoning in Lawrence vs. Texas? If not, I think you have little to worry about from gay marriage. If you are, then I think you have more to worry about than gay marriage. Is this interpreting you incorrectly?
I don’t see myself really disagreeing with you or ignoring you or even mischaracterizing you. If there is a disagreement its that I think the politics of the support for gay marriage derive from the politics of individual sexual liberty carried to a conclusion about marriage rather than anything about inherent to marriage itself.
Regardless, thanks for starting up this rockin’ cocktail party.
Seth R., fair point, but apparently you changed your mind on this issue from some support to greater resistance, and many others, Nate included, changed their mind from some resistance to greater support. At least that is how I read the lay of the land.
I have seen Lorian comment a few times times on various boards. The subjects have been diverse. She is smart, articulate, and passionate about her beliefs. She is never wrong, though. I am inclined to distrust people who are never wrong on any point in any argument.
correlated #170 –
Don’t misquote me, please. I did not speak against polygamous families having marriage protections and rights. In fact, I said that I could see no significant reason why they should not, and that there is much to be said on the positive side for polygamous families (in addition to the negatives, some of which are almost inescapable if it is practiced on a large scale).
There are no such demonstrable harms, however, in same-sex couples having equal marriage. Since same-sex couples who marry are not likely to ever exceed the percentage of the population which is actually homosexual or bisexual, the probability of same-sex marriages ever making up more than, at the extreme outside, 10% of the general population (and that is, I am sure, a *gross* exaggeration), are slim-to-none. Hence, those who say, “Hey! What if we legalize it and then EVERYBODY wants to get gay-married (hate that term :eyetwitch: ), and then nobody has any babies and the species becomes extinct and the world comes to an end!” Clearly, these ideas are hyperbolic in the extreme.
Polygamous marriage, however, presents a certain conundrum, since *anyone*, hetero or homosexual, could conceivably wish to engage in a polygamous marriage. Since the species seems, as a rule, more inclined towards polygyny than polyandry, the problem of scarcity of wives and an overabundance of unattached men has the potential to become a serious problem, as has already happened in places where polygyny is practiced by relatively large groups of people.
So, again, I don’t have any real objections to consenting, fully-informed adults configuring their marriages as they see fit, and I see some significant positives in the polygamous model, but the potential harms and very real legal considerations involved *do* make it a completely different situation than marriage equality for same-sex couples. Please don’t try to twist my words again, correlated.
I guess I should qualify it then and say that people who’ve been arguing long enough to form opinions. But fair point – perhaps I shouldn’t be so cynical.
But this really is a polarized issue.
Seth #172 –
Seth, it has *everything* to do with *civil* marriage. As I said, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 1300-1400 separate, individual rights and protections which are attached to civil marriage at the federal and state level. They are provided to straight couples automatically simply by trotting down to the County Clerk’s office and handing over 15 bucks for a marriage license, then signing the form and saying, “I do.” MANY of them are not obtainable through *any* other means besides engaging in a civil marriage. Collect my spouse’s social security when she dies by drawing up a contract in a lawyer’s office? Not going to happen. Have inheritance taxes deferred until the surviving spouse’s death because we said that’s what we wanted in our wills? Uh-uh. Tell that one to the IRS and they’ll laugh you to the curb. This isn’t just about hospital visitation. That’s certainly been a huge area of suffering for same-sex couples who were blocked from their dying spouse’s bedside, but we’re talking literally hundreds of rights and protections, many of which are *only* available through marriage.
And for that handful of rights and protections which one *can* reproduce by way of drawing up contracts and agreements at an attorney’s office, the cost for doing so is prohibitive for all but the wealthy. I have friends, a lesbian couple, who, when their twins were born, decided (since at that time CA did not provide any real rights or protections to same sex couples, even though they had a legal domestic partnership) to go to their attorney and put in place as many of the protections they couldn’t get through marriage as they could reproduce through contractual agreements. They ended up getting, perhaps, a dozen or so of the rights of marriage reproduced in this manner, and by the time the attorney fees and court costs were done, they had shelled out somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000.
So, straight couple goes to the County Clerk one afternoon, pays $15 dollars, stands on the lawn, says, “I do,” and walks away with some 1400 new rights and protections for themselves and any children they may bear. Gay couple spends months going back and forth to the attorney’s office and the courthouse, pays $10,000, and ends up with about 15 protections they didn’t have before, and no way to access the remaining 1385 or so that their straight counterparts take for granted.
That doesn’t sound like equal treatment under the law to me, Seth.
I never said you did, Seth. Nor do I particularly approve of divorce, especially when there are children involved. But that doesn’t mean you get to discriminate against gay people getting married. If you don’t approve of divorce, then why aren’t you out there campaigning to do away with divorce rights? Why aren’t you out there campaigning for same-sex couples to have equal rights so they’ll be less likely to marry a straight person and need a divorce? Why aren’t you out there posting on threads about making divorces harder to obtain? If you don’t like divorce and what it does to families and children, then don’t rag on gay people who want to get married and commit their lives to one another, and raise their children in stable, protected marriages. That makes *no* sense at *all*, Seth.
Lorian, I did not intend to misquote you are twist your words. I was just trying to summarize. Most people on blogs don’t like to read 3-page comments littered with block quotes. Your anger is misplaced. You are mostly among friendlies here. Your inability to discern that diminishes your arguments.
You’re the one who brought up heterosexual divorce as if it was supposed to prove something to me. So I responded.
And I’ve already said we need quite a bit of work on the notion of civil unions.
correlated #181 –
LOL – thanks for the somewhat backhanded compliment. I would say, though, that, rather than never being wrong, the reality is that I learn from my mistakes and refine my positions over time, and I’ve been having conversations very much like this one for a very long time. That said, my wife might very well agree with you about the “never wrong” thing. ;)
correlated #185 – Sorry if I misunderstood your point. I’m not so sure that you are correct, though, about most of the opinions on this thread being “friendly” towards families such as mine, however. But I appreciate the words of encouragement.
Seth #186 –
Where do you get that? I did not bring up the topic of heterosexual divorce as any kind of proof of the validity of equal marriage. You and Marty actually brought up divorce as proof of the supposed decline of heterosexual marriage and/or a demonstration of how the sexual revolution (and, by extension, according to your representation, anyway, same-sex relationships) were “damaging” heterosexual marriage. Not sure without spending more time rereading the thread, which of you has most vigorously promoted this POV, but my comments regarding divorce have only been in *response* to these arguments from you and Marty. Your first mention of divorce was in post 84, I believe. I mentioned the word “divorce” prior to that point, but only in the context of discussing the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the regulation of marriage prior to the Protestant Reformation.
I only brought up divorce as commentary on the general devaluation of marriage in our culture, and how it enables further erosion of the concept of marriage – since it is viewed as being restrictive on the individual and burdening them with broader social obligations. How that objection to individual limitation enables the prospect of gay marriage.
That’s the only way I was using it. Can’t speak for marty. Sorry if I misunderstood.
On a side note. This has been a fairly even-toned discussion. Thank you.
I didn’t say a lot about divorce, but its confusing to me be because some of the protections of marriage are really just protections in the case of divorce.
Here is a quick example. There is an obligation of parents in marriage to support the child and the spouse. But in practical terms, its only by divorcing that one can enforce the support. I may be wrong on this but I think there are many married men that don’t provide financial or other support for children and very few of them are taken to court over it while still married.
It doesn’t seem like a very strong protection from marriage if you have to get out of the marriage to enforce it.
It all seems a bit circular in that the threat of divorce may motivate performance under marriage but by how much really?
Since people seem to think you are knowledgeable. Where are we these days with respect to gender discrimination. We don’t have an equal rights amendment and some people want one, so there must be some discrimination that is legal but how about this one.
Can a court or legislature or the people by initiative say that we believe children need a mother and say we’ll allow adoption to lesbian couples but not male homosexual couples? If not, is that statutory of constitutional law and what kind?
correlated #178 –
correlated, I come to discussions like this with a willingness to share a certain amount of personal information about myself and my family, because I recognize that many people who have strong opinions against equal marriage actually have very little real experience or knowledge from personal encounters with gay people and gay parents. So, yes, I’m willing to answer some of your questions, as long as the responses to my answers are respectful, and my children are not seen as fair game for any unkind remarks from other posters. I’m used to personal attacks against myself and my wife, but our children are where I draw the line.
He was an anonymous donor we selected from a reputable fertility clinic gamete bank. We have access to his medical and family history, but not to identifying information, per his preference and the clinic’s rules.
No, other than the fact that they know they were conceived through the use of sperm donated by a kind man who wanted to help other people have the children they would not otherwise have been able to conceive.
No. He did not want to become a parent. He wanted to help others become parents. We did not want a third party to our marriage (we considered a couple of possible known donors, but decided against it for a number of reasons). We are our children’s parents. They have plenty of extended family members and family friends, both male and female, to look to as role models and additional support, but we are their parents, and all of us are very comfortable with that.
If my kids decide when they reach adulthood to go in search of their sperm donor, I will support them doing so. Whether they will be able to get identifying information released at that time by the clinic will depend a great deal upon what changes, if any, have been made to California laws governing the contractual arrangements made between gamete donors and clinics. At this point, gamete donors are quite firmly protected from all claims from offspring or their parents who have conceived by way of the donor’s gametes. The clinic can provide any medical and family history needed in case of medical issues.
Not particularly. There have always been cases of men who father dozens of offspring with multiple wives or partners (some in LDS history stand out quite notably). Rules governing how ethical clinics conduct their business are being refined all the time, and the clinic we used was extremely reputable and careful to make sure that it kept records of pregnancies caused by the various donors, and to destroy any remaining samples from donors who had caused the maximum number of allowable pregnancies. I know there have been a few episodes of 60 Minutes or similar journalistic expose programs pointing up this or that clinic for abusing the public’s trust and allowing donors to father hundreds of offspring. I don’t believe that this is a widespread concern, though, and it is one which regulatory groups and the industry, itself, are addressing.
Yep. Not even close. Far more heterosexual couples use IVF and donor gametes than gay couples. Even if you banned gay couples from conceiving in this way, whatever problems currently exist would still exist.
I can’t imagine what it would be, since even those who oppose equal marriage in the most draconian of terms cannot seem to come up with any real measures of harm that it could cause, beyond vague assertions of “devaluation of marriage,” which ring false and garner no support from existing models. If someone can show me a *real* way in which equal marriage causes more *demonstrable* harm than the very real *good* that it does for families like mine, for young gay people who have examples of healthy relationships and acceptance rather than rejection, the good that it does by reinforcing the importance of marital commitments and stability in relationships, I’ll be happy to listen. But I keep waiting and waiting, and the only things I hear are, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” and “God’s gonna get you for that!” While those may be compelling arguments to those who make them, I find them somewhat less than compelling.
By the way, I’m sorry that you find my blockquoted posts difficult to follow. I find that this is the easiest way to make sure that I thoroughly address the many points and questions people address to me in their posts. It seems disrespectful to make them have to jump back and forth to figure out what question I’m trying to answer.
You’re welcome, and thank you.
Thanks, Lorian. I appreciate your willingness to share. I don’t find the block quotes difficult to follow. I have just become addicted to 140 characters. I suspect others have as well.
Mtnmarty #191 –
Marty, I’m not sure if this was addressed to me. I’ll give you my best answer, though.
Current research does not support the idea that either a male parent or a female parent is specifically necessary to the well-being of a child. The presence of two dedicated, nurturing, loving parents is quite clearly demonstrated to be more beneficial, all other factors being equal, than a single parent (though a single loving, nurturing parent is far better than two abusive or neglectful parents). But the respective genitalia of those parents does not appear to have any significant influence on parenting outcomes, which are found to be just as good in all areas of evaluation, whether the parents are of the same sex or opposite sexes.
Therefore, your hypothetical of a mother being more necessary than a father, and as a result, children being adopted to lesbians but not to gay men, is really so unrealistic as to be unanswerable. Incidentally, some of the finest parents I’ve known have been gay dads. I know a couple at my church who have an adopted daughter who is about six, whom they dote on, and now have identical twin boys who are about 1-1/2. I’ve never seen a mother any more nurturing to her children than are these two truly delightful men.
In broader terms, though, the entire concept of legislating or decreeing through the courts that entire classes of people are ineligible to be parents and can be prohibited from such, poses a whole ream of problems. We have determined as a society that the right to reproduce is among the most basic and protected of human rights. In cases in our nation’s history where some have attempted to restrict or deny those rights. Forced sterilizations of the “mentally deficient,” of “women of ill repute” or of the poor in certain states are some of our country’s darkest human rights violations, after slavery, of course. Some of these programs actually continued into the 1970’s and 1980’s and are only now coming to light in the public awareness, and are generating very angry calls for redress.
Some of communist China’s more disreputable human rights violations have been related to its “one child policy.” Again we have seen forced sterilizations, forced abortions, children abandoned in state orphanages, infanticides. Whenever humans start in on the business of determining who may or may not be permitted to reproduce, inevitably such restrictions are accompanied by Nazi-esque human rights violations.
I think our government and our judiciary are intelligent enough to realize that this is a length to which we, as human beings, cannot afford to go. At least I certainly hope so.
I neglected to mention the question of adoption separately from reproduction — sorry. We have had some terrible abuses on this front, as well, in which gay parents have lost custody of their children to the children’s grandparents and, in one notable case, a lesbian mom lost custody of her child to the child’s father, her ex-husband, who had just been released from prison after serving a sentence for murder, because the court deemed that a murderer was a more fit parent that a homosexual.
Since there is simply nothing in the body of research on same-sex parents to support this type of parenting discrimination, there will hopefully be fewer and fewer cases of this nature. Two states currently, I believe, still have laws prohibiting all adoptions by gays and lesbians (couples or singles). I believe these are Florida and Arkansas, with Arkansas’s law being quite recent. In both cases, though, I believe there are now judicial decisions in place invalidating both of these states’ laws. Adoption for gay singles and couples is still sketchy in many places, and extremely inconsistent from state to state, but things are improving. And it would be a terrible injustice to children everywhere who need loving homes if gay people, or gay men, were not permitted to adopt.
correlated #194 – Yeah, I’m not much good at précis of my own writings, nor am I much use as a twitter-er. I do enjoy a good haiku, however, from time to time. ;)
I think the research is still undecided here. The homosexual community is a very diverse community. It’s hard to isolate things like parenting within it for study.
I generally shy away from making such research a part of my arguments because of its tentative nature.
Seth #176 –
For all couples, heterosexual and homosexual? Because if not, then separate is never equal. If so, how do you propose to sell this idea to all the heterosexual couples who don’t want their civil marriages turned into civil unions?
Seth #198 –
So is the heterosexual community, Seth. And yet, we don’t deny heterosexuals the right to procreate *or* to marry based upon their spotty record as a group. The research thus far is actually quite clear. If you don’t want to believe me, then believe the AMA, the AAP, the APA and the NASW, among others. Just saying, “I think the research is still undecided,” does not make it so.
Here is another one for you. I tried this one on Nate earlier with no luck. I place a pretty high value on personal liberty especially in relation to government. I’m not a libertarian but just have that as a primary value. So, I am motivated on liberty grounds to support rights for people to choose who they marry. Since I am an individual rights person, I am skeptical of rights for groups (all of them) except to the extent that individuals have the right to form groups with their liberty. I am ambivalent or against rights for corporations, political parties, nations, races, etc.
So, my solution would be to remove the right of government to recognize gender or assign gender to an individual. This solves the gay marriage problem pretty directly. Unlike many libertarians, I don’t think my preference is morally correct, its just my political persuasion.
I think sexual attraction is much more varied and subtle than gay and straight. I know very few people who are attracted to a gender as a gender. They are attracted to certain characteristics of certain people that are highly but not completely correlated to gender.
There certainly seems to be a biological component but there seems to be a strong cultural and situational component. When only one gender is available for sexual gratification(prison, navy, frontier), that gender receives the attraction. I think orientation is real, but I think its no more real than people who are promiscuous versus not. A promiscuous hetero male or female may have much sexual contact with the same gender than a less sexually adventurous homosexually attracted person. I have seen studies that show there is a strong genetic bias to this promiscuity.
I think there is reluctance in the general population to link acceptable behavior to genetic propensity and this is among the reasons. We don’t want different standards for the naturally violent or naturally dishonest. This is why I believe that the sexual revolution paved the way for gay marriage. Because we are not really that worried about sexual behavior at all, we don’t worry as much about saying same sex preference should justify a same sex marriage. I think Seth is right that young people just don’t think sex is that big a deal.
I’ve already stated that I’m not entirely averse to the idea of “civil unions for everyone” and let marriage be a matter of private belief.
After all, I’m one of the first who proposed it.
But at the same time, I feel that government should be allowed to treat heterosexual unions differently because of the biological potential inherent in the class. And I am very worried about the consequences of where this is all taking us.
Seth, correlated, and Marty, you’re getting off topic and making the gay marriage much more complicated that it really is. In fact I believe you’re using obfuscation as a tactic to combat gay marriage rather than sound reasoning (and this is typical of gay marriage opponents since science, reason, and true justice are against them).
So allow me to back up and simply reiterate why gays should be allowed to marry in … condensed talking points.
1) What defines someone as gay is their biological unchangeable desire to have romantic relationships with other people of the same gender and their pursuing of those relationships. That’s it. They are not physically impaired (such as the blind whom we have to deny driving privileges to because it poses a danger to themselves and others) or socially deviant (such as convicted felons, whom the courts have the right to deny rights to for a period in punishment of a specific act).
2) Romantic relationships between two consenting people of the same gender do not impinge on anyone else’s freedoms and rights.
3) US law gives people the right to marry whom they please provided they are consenting, of legal age, and not currently in a marriage contract (and of the opposite gender in most states). Current laws do not require people to have the intention of having children in order to marry. Also laws do not require people to marry in order to have children or take care of children. Parents are not required by current laws to be the sole provider of children, the law allows them to put them into foster care or put them up for adoption. So your harping about children has nothing to do with the matter at hand.
4) Denying two consenting gays the right to marry is discrimination based on sexual orientation, which should be illegal and unconstitutional. Civil unions are discriminatory by virtue of their being a separate category for gay relationships, somewhat along the lines of “separate but equal” treatment for blacks in the south.
5) The gay marriage debate is about equal treatment for gays and lesbians before the law, not redefining marriage. Marriage means different things in different cultures even within the US, and you maintain the right to express your own personal interpretation for what it is supposed to mean and why it is significant or not. But no longer barring gays to marry does not redefine marriages between two people of the opposite gender. It will still be the same as it has always been.
No Steve – marriage has pretty much always meant man-woman-children in human history, a few incredibly rare and isolated outliers notwithstanding.
Marriage has meant different things for people over time and space. For many early Mormons it was man and several women and children. Once again, this a debate about equality, not defining or “redefining” marriage.
Found a great quote from Jonathan Rauch against the spurious argument that marriage should be reserved for those who can potentially reproduce:
“There are far more sterile heterosexual unions in America than homosexual ones. The “anatomical possibility” crowd cannot have it both ways. If the possibility of children is what gives meaning to marriage, then a post-menopausal woman who applies for a marriage license should be turned away at the courthouse door. What’s more, she should be hooted at and condemned for stretching the meaning of marriage beyond its natural basis and so reducing the institution to frivolity. People at the Family Research Council or Concerned Women for America should point at her and say, “If she can marry, why not polygamy?”
A sterile heterosexual couple still belongs to a CLASS of relationships that tend to produce children easily and naturally.
You can repeat the sterility argument all you want, but it’s not getting any more valid with repetition.
Marty #201 – While I agree with you that sex, gender and orientation are far more complex and more on a continuum that the binary models which are most comfortable to the majority of people, I don’t think the elimination of gender as a legal concept is probably the most direct (or likely) solution for the issues which face same-sex couples and their families at this point in history. I just can’t see a notion that far off the beaten path becoming a legal reality in the near future, nor am I willing to waste time, money and energy pushing for something like that, when simply permitting same-sex couples full access to civil marriage rights will serve as an excellent and relatively simple solution which will meet the needs of a pretty broad spectrum of people.
Seth, nor is your argument that gays cannot have children without adoption or donor gametes as justification for denying marriage rights to gay couples, and particularly to gay couples with children, becoming any more convincing with repetition.
Seth, it’s like you don’t read. Who cares about class of relationships. You’re just creating more obfuscation. The question of children has nothing to do with current marriage laws. I am within my legal right to have a child out of wedlock. Marriage is simply an option that the government provides people, which they can enjoy if they so desire, based only on consent, age limit, and whether or not they are currently in a marriage (and opposite gender in most states). Since we’ve recently discovered that being gay is not a choice and that it is not by itself inherently harmful to society, it is then discriminatory to deny them any right enjoyed by heterosexuals.
As to the “redefining” of marriage, allow me to paraphrase a rather interesting point I heard recently. Up until the women’s suffrage movement of the 19th century, “voting” had pretty much always meant, “An action taken by free men in a society — sometimes by free male landowners — to democratically select a leader or governmental representative.” When women claimed the right to vote, they did not “redefine” voting in any significant way. Changing the definition to include women in the universe of “people who can vote” did not change anything essential or important to the purpose and meaning of “voting.”
Nor does allowing same-sex couples the right to civilly marry make any intrinsic or essential change to the definition of what civil marriage means and does for society and families.
Steve #210 – Well said.
I agree with your on the same sex marriage and the fact that you don’t think the binary model of sexuality is the gospel truth is a plus. I only bring it up theoretically because it is very hard for me to tell what people mean by sexual discrimination while still wanting to maintain gender as a governmental category.
Separate gender sports contests are obviously employment discrimination to me but they are somehow legal because males don’t need protection from this discrimination or its not a prohibited type of discrimination or something. It all seems a bit ad hoc to me.
Some of the ways that people talk past each other about gay marriage seem the same to me where the sides differ on whether a difference is really a discrimination.
Well that’s good Lorian, because I never said gays couldn’t have children or adopt. Nor do I have any particular objection to them doing so.
No Steve, it’s like you didn’t read.
I already told you that marriage isn’t about individuals. It’s about government regulation of a CLASS. Therefore nothing you’ve been saying has even been addressed to my argument in the first place.
Steve I’m not obfuscating with my concerns. Politically I support smae sex marriage to avoid making enemies of gays even though I don’t believe the state can verify sexual orientation or should.
I mean its not discrimination against sexual orientation to ban heterosexuals from not marrying the same gender – its marriage orientation discrimination but how other than self-reporting can we tell the difference in the cases?
Do you have a genetic test that I’m not aware of?
No, marriage is simply the provision of some benefits by the government to two people who desire them under the title of marriage. It has nothing to do with class. The government can’t really regulate what goes on in a marriage. I am within my legal right to marry someone and then leave them and never see them again, and engage in a romantic relationship with someone else. Marriage only entitles me to some additional tax, property, and inheritance benefits, nothing else. “Class of relationships” is some bogus argument you pulled out of nowhere.
Seth #202 –
But you have not said how this can be accomplished. Many heterosexuals I’ve talked to, while they might be okay with “civil unions” as a separate-but-(un)equal status for same-sex couples, do not, themselves, wish to relinquish the term “marriage” for their own unions.
And since the net result of converting all civil marriages to “civil unions” and then allowing people to obtain whatever terminology and blessing they wish from their church will have the net effect that everyone can be legitimately called “married” anyway, since there are plenty of churches already which will gladly religiously marry a same-sex couple, why go through the trouble of changing the name of the civil institution?
I’ll tell you why — because at the heart of it, this debate is about allowing people to continue to discriminate in *some* way against same-sex couples. It’s about society wanting to retain the last shreds of its ability to treat gay people as less-than and second-class. The word “marriage” has no special religious significance as a word coined *by* religion *for* the exclusive use of religion. It comes from secular society. As a word, “marriage” does not even appear in the Bible in its original languages. It is merely a translation for other words, which has also been used as a designation for non-religious relationships and concepts over the past more than two millennia. To go through such legal contortions and gyrations as to change the name of all civil marriages to civil unions in order to attempt to keep gay people from being able to use a word which derives from a middle-English word derived from an ancient Latin word predating Christianity, only to have gay people be able to continue to use that word for their relationships because they can get married by a church — why, Seth? What exactly is the point of these convolutions? Why not just let go of that word, and allow gay people to protect their relationships and families the same way straight people do?
I have every bit as much biological potential as any straight woman. And marriage isn’t granted on the basis of biological potential, but on the basis of the commitment of two people to each other. If you can show me the portion of the marriage code in your state which says that couples are granted civil marriage based upon their reproductive potential, I’ll shut up and let it go, but I’m betting I’ll be waiting an awfully long time for you to come up with it.
I’m still waiting to hear a clearly defined, plausible, specific way in which the marriages of same-sex couples will harm society. I’ve named a number of very specific ways in which they will *help* society — not vague suppositions or hopes, but real, solid, factual ways in which they help society. I haven’t heard any real, solid, factual, provable ways in which they will harm society. Without clearly defined, demonstrable harm, there is no legitimate legal cause for denying equal rights and protections to citizens in this country. That’s how our legal system works.
Seth #214 –
But you have yet to acknowledge the blatant inconsistency in your argument, that
1) You are perfectly willing for gay couples to bear or adopt children and to raise those children,
2) You believe civil marriage (and that’s all we’re discussing here, not religious marriage, right?) to be a contractual state which is intended to support and stabilize families for the better rearing of children, and yet
3) You would deny that contractual state to same-sex couples on the grounds that they are “less likely” to have children than heterosexual couples.
If you wish to deny marriage rights and protections to gay couples because you consider them less likely to have children, then you must also, in order to maintain the consistency of your argument, deny them the right to bear or adopt and raise children. Otherwise, you are discriminating against the children of gay parents because you consider their existence “less likely.” I can prove to you that gay people have kids, so whether you consider my kids “less likely” or not, they are here, believe me. You wish to deny my children equal protection under the law because I am “less likely” to reproduce. How does that make sense, again?
Lorian, my position is one of pragmatic concern with biological realities and probabilities.
I don’t care one jot for ideological purity.
And yes, you do have just as much biological possibility of reproduction as any straight woman – through HETEROSEXUAL activity. But there is no such similar potential in the class of unions you have chosen to enter. Again, I’m not concerned with the individual here – rather the class of individuals.
I feel like I’ve already stated my position here in a satisfactory manner. I don’t see any particular inconsistency since it’s a pragmatic position about the genetic reality of our population’s future. I know ideologically, you can’t or won’t see it. But I don’t think there’s much left for us here except to repeat ourselves endlessly.
And it’s time for General Conference.
So I’m respectfully finished with this exchange. Thank you for your part in the exchange Lorian, and, and a good weekend to you.
Fair enough, Seth. We’ll agree to disagree.
I would just like to add that I am dealing this morning with my grief for a young couple at my church. One was killed in a car accident last night. The other is left alone, a widow, without the love of her life, trying to face putting her life back together alone. They had been together for 6 years, but couldn’t be married. She now faces her new life as a widow, with none of the rights or protections other widows have, not even acknowledged by the law as anything more than a legal stranger to the person to whom she had committed her life.
My heart is breaking for her. It would be breaking for her even if they’d been able to marry. But how much worse for her to add this extra layer of trauma and hardship on top?
Please pray for her, if you can find it in your heart to do so, as she attempts to move forward with her life.
I am sorry to hear that Lorian.
Would it surprise you to hear that I believe they will have the opportunity to be together in heaven in their love? I’ve long felt that homosexuality calls for us to reexamine what love in heaven and the eternities means.
Anyway, yes – my prayers for them.
I have read the post, I have read the essay, and I have read almost all of the comments. And I have thought long and hard about the issue of gay marriage. I believe it’s going to happen and there is nothing we can do about that. I do not agree with gay marriage, but for awhile have thought that, well, I don’t really have the right to insist that others follow my standards. However, they aren’t really MY standards, they’re GOD’s standards. And that is what makes all the difference. It is God who has said that homosexual relations are an abomination, not man. While it may be true that those who feel SSA did not choose those feelings, they do have a choice on whether or not to act upon them. Some years back I read Ty Mansfield’s Book, In Quiet Desperation. Here was a young man with SSA who was not at all attracted to women (I seem to recall him saying at one point that the thought of kissing a girl was repugnant to him), but who knew that the Lord did not want him living a homosexual lifestyle. So he decided to remain celibate. Now you can read Ty’s testimony on the mormonsandgays website and discover that he is happily married (to a woman) with a young son. He had just turned his life over to the Lord and was rewarded.
That happily-ever-after scenario may not happen to every gay man or woman who decides to keep the commandments and live chastely. I feel for people with SSA who want so much to have someone to love and spend their life with. Celibacy is no fun. But it is not just homosexuals who have that problem. There are many straight men and women who do not find the “love of their life” on this earth, who must also, if they wish to follow the Lord’s way, remain celibate. It isn’t impossible. I was married while in my 20s and sex was the most wonderful, enjoyable part of that marriage. But today is the 42nd anniversary of my divorce, and I have remained celibate during that 42 years. I have been in and out of love a few times, have dated a number of men, some of whom I could have had sex with (and wanted to), but I managed to maintain my chaste lifestyle. We just need to remember that the Lord “does not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (that was actually quoted this morning in Conference). And remember that He will not give us any burdens we are not strong enough to bear, if we will use the agency we are given to follow HIM and not the ways of the world.
Lorian, you seem like a very nice person, certainly an intelligent one, and I know God loves you, as He loves us all. And I am sure you are a wonderful mother to your children. And maybe because you aren’t LDS and don’t believe the same things about the next life that we do, you will disagree with what I say, but often following God’s laws are hard. Sometimes following Him means we will have to live through this life without the love we so long for. But in the end, it will be worth it.
I don’t know that gay marriage will have any effect on the rest of us. That isn’t the point. I believe that our Heavenly Father is sad at today’s moral corruption. And those of us who truly love Him need to do our best to not be a part of that corruption. Homosexual relations are sinful, even if the law legalizes them.
Sharee, what you do not seem to realize is that your *beliefs* about homosexuality are simply that — *your beliefs*. The fact that *you* believe (or Pres. Monson believes, or someone else believes) that being gay is a “sin” does not make it so. Nor does it mean that the federal or state government has the right to take away people’s civil rights because *you* claim that they are sinning.
You have no legal or moral obligation (or right, for that matter) to stop *me* from doing something you think is a “sin,” but which is not harming you in any way.
Your argument that straight people are expected to be celibate outside of marriage, too, is blithe and glib in its complete disregard for the fact that a celibate heterosexual always has the *option* of getting married at any time, whereas the celibate homosexual person, in the church’s eyes, has no such option. Additionally, the celibate heterosexual has the option of dating and having companionable relationships with persons to whom she is sexually attracted — spending time together, holding hands, kissing, engaging in romantic activities, so long as they do not include actually having sex. The celibate homosexual person in the church is barred from *all* intimacy, *all* romantic relationships to persons to whom s/he may be attracted. Still quite the double-standard, isn’t it?
But, as you point out, I’m not LDS. I do not believe same-sex relationships to be a sin, nor should I be bound by anyone else’s beliefs that they are. I am a Christian, and a faithful member of my church, which also does not teach or believe in the sinfulness of same-sex relationships. There is no reason that my church should be bound by the teachings of your church. Sure, you think that your church has the corner on absolute truth. You’re entitled to *believe* that, but not to enforce that belief on others.
As for Ty Mansfield and other representatives of the “ex-gay” movement, you would do well to research the dark side of that movement before accepting everything it has to say naively. Statistics on the success/failure rates of “ex-gay” groups like Evergreen, Exodus and NorthStar are extremely misleading. They keep their own “statistics,” and what they do not tell you is that, when someone drops out of their program, they no longer include that person in their statistics. So, if 100 people embark upon the supposed path to heterosexual “conversion,” and 95 people drop out along the way, and of the remaining 5, one person gets heterosexually married for a year or two, and 3 of the remaining four claim to be celibate for a year, and the final one says that his “same-sex attractions” have “lessened” by, say, 5%, they claim this as an 80-100% “success rate,” despite the fact that 95% of their beginning participants dropped out without ever completing the “program.” Actual “success” rates for these “ex-gay” programs are, as nearly as can be determined by more legitimate researchers, less than 1%. When you consider that probably at least a few of their participants are actually bisexual to some degree or another from the start, and that bisexuals actually have the ability to form satisfying relationships with persons of either sex, a 1% “success” rate suggests that these folks were bisexual and were thus able to form a relationship with someone of the opposite sex.
Additionally, even people who are actually gay can sometimes manage to engage in a dysfunctional heterosexual relationship for a period of time. The problem is that such relationships simply can’t last in the long haul, and what generally happens is that the couple stays together long enough to conceive and bear a few children, and then, when the kids most need their parents, the couple just can’t keep going any longer, and split up, tearing the family and the children apart.
The only “ex-gays” who stay in long-term relationships with anything approaching success are those who were either bisexual to begin with, not actually gay, or those who are what is known as “professional ex-gays” — people like Mansfield and like some of the Exodus leadership, who make their living from being public spokespeople for the “ex-gay movement.” And many of them ultimately end up engaging in same-sex relationships on the sly, or eventually leave the movement all together in order to enter an honest same-sex relationship.
Encouraging people to forswear their natural, God-given sexual orientation in favor of either a dishonest, unsatisfying and likely doomed “heterosexual” relationship, or a lifetime commitment to an unhealthy, unhappy, sometimes suicide inducing life of loneliness and isolation, is irresponsible and cruel. If you choose to take something like that on for yourself, do so. But don’t urge other people to do so. Every major professional health, psych and social work organization in this country has stated that “reparative therapy” and similar “therapies” aimed at “changing” sexual orientation are irresponsible, unprofessional and potentially very damaging.
PLEASE do your research before publicly promoting such unprofessional and dangerous sorts of groups.
I have no opinion about the efficacy of gay marriage at this time. I’m unconvinced either way. I just have opinions about the opinions. :)
Seth, anecdotally speaking, nearly no gay couples I know between the ages of 18 and 80 are raising children, either adopted by the couple or given birth to by one of them or a surrogate. In fact, my anecdotal experience includes only one: Lorian (see, I did figure out how to spell it!) and her partner. And I only “know” her on the internet. (Shocker, I do know a lot of gay couples.)
While I won’t speak for Sharee, I’m pretty sure she knows her beliefs are her beliefs. I’m also pretty sure the church has said about 400,000 times (though that may be hyperbole) that “being gay” isn’t a sin. Rather, engaging in homosexual relations is.
You can disagree, but too often this tends to boil down to some notion that God has no right to proscribe behavior — and that is nonsensical if “God” means anything at all.
Still, come on Lorian. This is an LDS blog. You are (obviously) welcome to post here, but I think an LDS blog is probably an OK place for people to speak with the assumption that LDS doctrine is correct. We all know not everyone accepts LDS doctrine, but in an LDS venue, it would seem your onus to explain why you disagree with the position, rather than pick at the assumption itself.
Every law — yes, every single law — enforces a value set (religiously based or otherwise) and infringes on liberty. And the behaviors that are accepted and encouraged by those laws impact everyone who lives under them. So let’s not pretend these things aren’t so. Rather, show why the impact (which, of course there will be) won’t be a problem. Or, if it is a problem, why it doesn’t matter that it causes a problem.
Alison, I believe I’ve said elsewhere in the thread (but if I haven’t, then let me be absolutely clear about it now), that I have no problem with people having and holding their own beliefs. I have no particular problem, from my own personal perspective, anyway, with the LDS (or other) church holding and teaching the belief that being gay (or having sex with someone of one’s own sex) is a “sin.”
What disturbs me is when people who hold those beliefs cross the line between maintaining a personal understanding of their own behaviors as “sinful”, or teaching their own followers what they believe to be “sins”, or teaching their own children what they believe to be “sins”, and enter the land of trying to proscribe the behaviors and lives of their neighbors who have not voluntarily joined the LDS (or whatever) church.
The reason I specifically objected to Sharee’s post is because she seemed to me to be speaking proscriptively towards “all homosexuals,” as well as blurring the lines between “what the church teaches” and “what the civil rights of gay couples ought to include” (not to mention the fact that the word “abomination,” when applied to me and my wife tends to set my teeth on edge…It’s kind of hard to use the term “abomination” in a sentence and come off sounding “loving”).
But the fact is, there are many religions which have come to the conclusion that traditional ideas about scriptural passages some people understand as referring to same-sex relationships in reality have nothing to do with committed, loving relationships between homosexually-oriented people at all. In the same way that the Bible has been represented as indicating that God endorses slavery, that God endorses racial segregation, that God condemns interracial marriage, that God ordains the superiority of men over women, the lordship of husbands over wives, the prevention of women from holding positions of authority within the church, the killing of those who refuse to accept or live by Biblical principles, and a variety of other horrible human ideas, a handful of passages in the Bible (about 8; fewer, in fact, than the number of Biblical passages which discuss unicorns) have been interpreted based upon societal prejudices as indicating that God disapproves of homosexual persons and their relationships.
Again, each person is entitled to his or her own religious beliefs and understandings, but on this topic, there are plenty of very well-educated, faithful, believing Christians who, after a great deal of scriptural study, exegesis, and prayer, believe that these conclusions are wrong.
That said, *nobody’s* religious beliefs get to dictate the civil rights of members of this society. You state that our laws are based upon a “value set.” This is true, so far as it goes. The thing is, that “value set” is not a moral code of any religion. It is specifically drawn upon the assumptions set forth in the Declaration of Independence, that all of us have “inalienable rights” to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Our laws are structured around the motivation that each individual’s rights must be preserved to the greatest possible extent, up to the point where those personal rights and freedoms begin to infringe upon the rights of other individuals or the rights of society as a whole.
To this end, laws which significantly restrict the rights of individuals must pass the test that the behaviors being restricted would otherwise cause clear, demonstrable harm to other individuals or to society. For this reason, we have laws which prohibit murder, theft, rape and other clearly harmful actions in which the rights of the individual to pursue his own happiness would unduly infringe upon the rights of his victims to life, liberty, etc. Not that we can’t or don’t ever pass laws which do not meet this test, but when we as a society do so, such laws almost inevitably come before the courts, whose job it is to interpret the laws and determine their constitutionality, and those which do not pass the test — which unduly inhibit the free exercise of rights by citizens without being able to show just cause why those rights should be infringed — are overturned by the courts.
So, the laws which prohibit murder do not do so on the basis of the fact that the Bible or the Quran or the Bhagavad Gita or the Torah says that murder is a “sin,” but on the basis of the fact that in consists in one person unjustly depriving another person of his/her right to life.
Laws which restrict the rights of homosexually-oriented persons to form loving, consensual, committed relationships with a compatible spouse, and to have those relationships treated equally under the law as compared to similar relationships between heterosexually-oriented persons, discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation (and gender, incidentally), for no clear reason other than the fact that a percentage of their fellow citizens subscribe to the religious belief that the relationships of homosexually-oriented persons are “an abomination.” That’s simply not a reason for inhibiting the civil rights of citizens of this nation which passes constitutional muster.
Now, there is a whole other aspect to this discussion which involves the very real harm done to young gay people raised in religious environments in which they are taught from a young age that *who they are* at their deepest, inmost being, is an “abomination.” Personally, I think the damage that churches like the LDS (and the Assembly of God, in which I was raised) inflict upon young gay people before they, themselves, even understand sexuality or have a solid concept of their own sexual orientation, is truly heinous. But I believe parents have a right to teach their children their value-systems, even when those value-systems are misguided and damaging. KKK members have a right to teach their children their racist beliefs (as sick as it makes me to think of it). The Westboro Baptist people have the right to teach their kids that “God hates fags,” and make them parade around on street corners waving signs to that effect. We each raise our children according to our own beliefs and preconceptions, no matter how good or bad, how right or wrong, those may be. The burden of proof which the state must meet before taking children away from parents for purely philosophical reasons (as opposed to physical abuse or neglect) is extremely high, and this is as it should be, in order to preserve the rights of children to be raised by the parents they have known throughout their lives and not to have those relationships severed due to political whimsy or disagreement.
But make no mistake, when young gay people commit suicide after being raised in conservative religious homes and churches, their blood is upon the hands of those who told them that God doesn’t love or accept who they are, that God wants them to never have loving, intimate relationships, that they must change who they are at the core of their being in order to be pleasing to God or accepted by their families.
Lorian, I never said anything about groups that try to “change” gays. I don’t believe in them at all. I don’t think Ty went to such a group. He just decided to remain celibate because he knew that was what God wanted for him. And, just for the record, I do not believe that having SSA is a sin–just acting on it.
Let me tell you a story of a friend of mine who was gay (yes, I do have gay friends, people that I care very much about). One day this man decided he no longer wanted to live the gay lifestyle. That does not mean he became straight, he just gave up his homosexual relationships–because he knew he was breaking God’s laws (I did take the word abomination from the scriptures). He repented of his previous disregard for God’s laws of chastity. It did not stop his SSA. And he knew it would not be easy, he knew he couldn’t do it alone, so he turned his life over to God. He started dating a woman he had been friends with for a long time. They fell in love and got married. They were very happily married and their marriage was sealed in the Temple. In fact he referred to his wife as the best thing that had ever happened to him. I asked him one time if he was still attracted to men and he said yes, but he didn’t act on it. Unfortunately, it was already too late for him. He had AIDS and eventually died from it. But he died knowing that God had accepted his repentance and had forgiven him. He died a righteous and well-loved man. I attended his funeral and the church was packed with friends there to honor him.
I would never, ever tell anyone that God did not love them. God loves us all, saint and sinner, and I doubt there are very many saints in this world. We are all sinners to some extent.
Sharee, Ty Mansfield is the founder of NorthStar, one of those “ex-gay” groups to which my earlier post referred. He is what is known as a “professional ex-gay,” meaning that he has a professional or monetary motivation to maintain the fiction that gay people can “change” or suppress their sexual orientation and live successful, happy, fulfilled lives.
While, again, I don’t dispute that a tiny percentage of people who have been in same-sex relationships can successfully enter a heterosexual relationship, I repeat that if they can be happy and fulfilled in a heterosexual relationship, it is because they were bisexual to begin with. Someone whose sexual orientation is at the far end of the Kinsey scale cannot have a satisfying, fulfilling sexual relationship with someone of the opposite sex. They cannot, as you describe it, “fall in love with” someone of the opposite sex.
That you continue to make such claims simply shows that you have bought into the conversion model from which the church, itself, is beginning to move away, recognizing that it is a fallacy which is condemned by all the major organizations of therapeutic professionals in this country, and which is deeply harmful to both the gay people who are pressured into trying it, and the heterosexual spouses and eventual children who are so horribly impacted by its results.
As for successfully living a life of permanent celibacy, sure there are people who do this, but should they be expected to? Our human bodies and psyches were not intended for solitary life. We are designed to be sexual and *social* creatures. The Bible says, “It is not good for man (or woman, for that matter) to be alone.” The fact that some of us can only find fulfilling relationships with someone of our own sex does not negate this need for bonds of love and intimacy.
Long-term celibacy affects both mental and physical health. Men who remain celibate for many years have fairly dramatically increased risks of prostate cancer. People who are married tend to live longer. They also report being happier than their unmarried peers.
In churches which demand celibacy from their clergy, there are widespread instances of emotional problems and sexual scandal. While some few people may be called to celibacy and may be capable of living it in a healthy manner without undue damage, the majority of human beings are not made for celibacy, particularly not the sort of celibacy demanded by the LDS church of gay people, with no allowable intimate relationships at all. At least in the Catholic Church, many celibates live in communities with other celibates, serving as a family structure and giving their lives greater meaning, structure and purpose. The solitary celibate (who is not called by God to the eremitic life) is frequently subject to severe depression, particularly when (unlike heterosexual celibates in the LDS church) there absolutely *no hope* that s/he can ever be released from this state in his/her lifetime.
Can it be done by some few? Perhaps, but at what cost?
I realize you believe that they are being offered an “eternal reward” for doing this. But that’s not what I read in the Bible. When you say the Bible describes same-sex relationships (of all kinds) as “abominations,” this is just one (and an extremely faulty) interpretation of those scriptures. The scriptures used in this manner actually apply to things like adultery, prostitution, temple orgies, rape, and other sexually exploitative behaviors (which I think most of us will agree are equally as sinful for heterosexuals as for homosexuals). Not one of them describes a consensual, committed relationship between two people who are homosexually-oriented.
My point here is not to say that you or your church does not have the right to its beliefs. But I think it is very important for you to be aware that those beliefs and teachings on *this* subject are harmful and damaging in the extreme to a lot of people whom God created to be exactly who they are, gay and lesbian people, who are as deserving of healthy, loving relationships in their lives as is anyone else. Blithely telling stories of people who have somehow “changed” their sexual orientation and are now in “happy heterosexual marriages” is really unhelpful to actual gay and lesbian people. The people you are describing are not representative of “gay people everywhere.” They are more likely representative of “bisexual people,” or are not actually giving you the real, deep-down story.
Suggesting that people listen to stories like this and attempt to follow their “example,” is like saying that you know somebody who jumped out of an airplane and survived a 5000 foot fall, and so therefore everyone should try this because if that guy can do it, you can, too. Please try to do some unbiased reading on this topic, before you press your cause any further.
Incidentally, whether you believe that words like “sinner,” “abomination,” and “lifestyle are appropriate in this context, if you really want gay people to listen to and engage with you, and not just shut down your post and move on, you might want to try leaving these words at home. To the average gay person, these words are as offensive as words like “faggot.” They all go together. Just a hint for future reference. I’m sure there are lots of offensive words you would never dream of using when speaking to someone of another race or religion. Your willingness to use words like them when speaking to a gay person merely displays your lack of respect (contempt) for gay people, whether you recognize that feeling in yourself or not. Approaching people with contemptuous language rarely makes them want to listen to what you have to say.
You claim that you “have gay friends” (just as most people with strong racial bias are often the first to state, “some of my best friends are black”). If you truly do have gay friends, and you love them, try dropping the contemptuous terminology. I’m betting that if they know that you refer to them with these words, they don’t consider you nearly as much a friend as you consider them.
As my wife just said to me, she knows people in groups who feel as you do, and who go out of their way to say that she is a “sinner.” She knows that some of these people would likely tell others that she is their “gay friend.” But the fact of the matter, as she put it so well, is that we do not consider people with these attitudes our “friends” (because who would be friends with someone who held them in such disrespect?).
Rather, we are “tolerant” of them. We “love the contemptuous person, but hate their contempt.” We choose to overlook their contempt so that we can maintain working relationships with them and not simply put them out of our lives. This does not mean that we consider them friends. We keep them in our lives so that they will have the opportunity to get to know a real, live gay person, and come to understand that we are not the stereotypes they have in their minds.
My gay friends are well aware of my feelings about homosexual relationships, but they know that I care about them anyway. My gay friend who changed (if you want to call it changed–note I said he still had SSA)and had a successful marriage with a woman was able to do so because he turned his life over to God. And with God, anything is possible. This is my last post on the subject.
Sharee, I’m not surprised your “gay friend who changed” (not my description, by the way — I used the word “change” in quotation marks and described it as a “fallacy”) still “experiences SSA” (another offensive term, by the way, as it implies that sexual orientation is a “condition” rather than an innate characteristic). Of course he is still attracted to other men. Sexual orientation doesn’t change or go away.
The point regarding your friend is that, if he is actually sexually, emotionally and romantically attracted to women (such as his wife), he is not, strictly speaking, a homosexual person at all, but rather, a bisexual. This would be the only way that someone in his shoes would be able to have a fulfilling, satisfying, intimate emotional and physical relationship with someone of the opposite sex. And it is not miraculous that he could do so, but merely a function of his biological make-up, his innate sexual orientation, which causes him to experience sexual and emotional attraction to persons of both sexes.
The fact that he is sexually attracted to his wife, and capable of having an emotionally and physically intimate relationship with her (assuming for the moment that what you say is actually the truth about his experience, and not an assumption being made) in no way signifies that other people who are actually homosexual, not bisexual, in their orientation could or would experience the same things he has experienced. It would be like say that, because Michael Phelps was able to win 18 gold medals by swimming in the pool every day, Sharee should be able to become a world-class swimmer and win 18 gold medals, too. Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. There are actual biological differences between Sharee and Michael Phelps which allowed him to become a world-class swimmer but would likely prohibit Sharee from becoming one. I’m sure that you, Sharee, have other gifts, but, since I haven’t seen you at the Olympics, I’m guessing that being a world-class swimmer is not among them.
God gives each of us many gifts and characteristics which make us unique, and each of us is precious in God’s sight as the person we were created to be. This includes homosexually-oriented people. God did not create people with a homosexual orientation in order to play a cruel joke on them, or to torture them, or to “test” them, or because of anything they did or decided in the pre-existence. God created them that they might have joy — that they be able to live in loving relationship with a dear person God prepared for them to love and to give themselves to in love, just as God did with God’s heterosexual children. What determines whether a gay or lesbian person is moral, is living out God’s plan for them, is whether they live their lives in love, commitment and faithfulness with a spouse who is their compatible partner in life, not the gender of the spouse.
I also suggest, Sharee, that you might want to actually sit down with your “gay friends” and ask them in all honesty where *you* stand on *their* friendship scale. I suspect that you won’t rank as nearly so close a friend as you might believe. No one really considers someone a close friend who considers their family an “abomination.” Just think about it for a moment or two, and I think you will understand that this is true.
Lorian, do you have any idea how judgmental and bigoted you are coming off here? You really want sharee to go and find out whether her friends are really her friends? Seriously?
You’ve already pointed out the insensitivity of Sharee’s posts. But you might consider your own.
Let’s see, Seth. Who has called whose marriage and family an “abomination”? Who is arguing that someone else does not deserve basic fundamental civil rights? And who are you calling “bigoted” and “judgmental,” again?
Sorry, not buying what you’re selling. :)
I’d also like to point out, for the record, that the word “bigot” has been used any number of times by a number of people, but not once have I called anyone on this thread a “bigot.” I think it is pretty sad that people would come to a thread like this to tear down who I am as a person, to call my family an “abomination,” to make all manner of suggestions that I and my family and children are less deserving of their own, and then, as the icing on the cake, accuse *me* of “bigotry.” Really, really sad.
Yes Lorian, that that perfectly justifies you in saying that sharee’s friends aren’t really her friends.
As far as I was aware, we aren’t in fifth grade, and those kind of excuses for bad behavior don’t work anymore.
Seth, attempting to shame me when my behavior on this thread has not been shameful at all (and others’ certainly has) is not going to work. Nice try, though.
The fact is that the first thing out of people’s mouths when their prejudices are brought to light is nearly always, “But I have friends who are xyz! I’m not prejudiced against xyz! I just think people who do xyz are sinners/bad/abominations/evil-in-some-way! But that doesn’t mean I’m not their friend! My friends who are xyz (black, Asian, gay, Jewish, Muslim, name-your-favorite) know I feel this way, and they still know I love them, and they love me!!!”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that. Ask a black person how they feel about someone who espouses ideals of racial inequality, and then justifies his/her position with the comment, “Some of my best friends are black! I’m not prejudiced!” I think you’ll find it is a common fallback of those who espouse prejudice ideals but do not wish to admit it.
In fact, just for your own personal edification, try googling the phrases, “Some of my best friends are black” and “Some of my best friends are gay.” It might be an enlightening experience.
Lorian, you seem to be under the impression that I approve of Sharee’s comments or agree with them. Where did I ever express approval or agreement with Sharee?
I’m talking about your own behavior here.
LOL, Seth. Again, I’m not the person who is calling people “abominations,” advocating denying anyone their civil rights, or claiming that my best friends approve of it when I say rude or insulting things about them and their families. But if you want to keep trying to put this one on me, you just go right ahead. The best defense is a good offense, after all. ;)
Lorian, if you seriously think that the fact that Sharee called your relationship an “abomination” is a good reason for you to retaliate that her friends aren’t “real friends”, then there’s not much to say here. But I am disappointed.
No retaliation here, Seth. Just a realistic assessment that, as a general rule, people whose families we call “abominations” probably don’t consider us their friends, if we were to honestly sit down an ask them. I know I don’t have any friends who would put up with those kinds of insulting terms being used towards their families. Would you, Seth? If someone said something insulting about Mormon families, would you consider them your friend?
And, since you have a pretty low opinion of people like me, and our families and relationships, to start with, Seth, I’m not too worried about “disappointing” you. I think you dropped below the level of any desire I might have to please you (had I such a desire) long before you described me as “bigoted.” There’s been a LOT of name-calling in this thread, and little if any of it has been from me. If anyone were to be disappointed here, I should think it would be me; luckily, I don’t come to this type of discussion with a lot of expectations for kindness or good behavior from those on the other side of the table. So I’m good, thanks.
Looks like this thread long ago passed the point where we are getting a lot more heat than light. Thanks all for participating. Don’t forget to tip your waiter…
Finally, I hope that anyone who has waded through these comments, will consider taking the time to read the original essay linked in the original post. It’s available here.